Thoughts on Life, 3 months Post-Grad

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So I’ve been done with school for about three months now. Its been quite an interesting experience, one that no one ever really talked to me about and yet I wish someone had.

There have been some great upsides. First, I have discovered that I am a natural morning person. Well, once I actually get out of bed and based on whether I actually slept well last night. I wake up and feel alive and in tune with the world. If I walk/exercise/yoga after getting up, this amplifies the feeling.

In fact, being able to have time to walk and move and exercise during my day has been great. In school, I normally walked about 3 miles a day. Now, between my commute to work and my side-job of walking dogs I find that I am actually moving about five miles a day (though sometimes this number gets as high as 13 miles when I walk a lot of dogs on the weekend). And it makes me feel great. Like really great and I kind of kick myself for not moving more when I was in school. I probably would have been a lot less stressed.

I’ve been able to consume books, particularly audiobooks, at a rapid rate. I’ve also had time to actually keep on top of current events and news of the day. I’ve been able to keep up and read my writing/book websites.

I’m significantly less stressed, my R.A. has been incredibly manageable and most of my aches and flares have been food related.

I’ve been able to learn about myself and who I physically am.

But there are also a lot of things that have been difficult.

Graduating means moving away from your support network and your people, often to a new city or place and a new job. It’s a lot of new. As someone who likes the comfort of routine and stability, its been really hard. Cities mean a lot of people, but it also can be incredibly hard to connect with people. It can be really easy to feel and be lonely.

And while there is no longer the time commitment of classes and homework, work takes up 1/3 of the time in your day, not including commute time and the time needed to get ready for the day. In the end, I have probably about 3-4 hours once I get home before its time for me to go to bed and start over. This leaves not a whole lot of time for me and socialization and my side-job. In some ways, I feel like I have even less time than I did when I was taking a full course load and working. It feels like I am slowly becoming my work and my work is becoming me.

And on the topic of work, I also feel completely disoriented in terms of what I want to do with my life. There are infinitely more options out there than I could have ever dreamed of, and I wish I had been more proactive in trying to experience them during my time in undergrad through internships. It’s caused me to reassess my skills and interests. I know that I still want to go to grad school and that I would still like to teach college someday.

The quarter-life crisis is, in fact, a thing whether you want to believe it or not. I mean it does logically make sense that after almost 20 years in a routine of school that an abrupt change and thrust into the actual working world would cause someone to question everything they think, know, and want. Our lives up until this point have been so defined by the light at the end of the educational tunnel that once we get there, what is there to hold onto and orient us?

This is not to mention the brutal banality of the unpaid internship and ungratifying entry-level grunt work. You may think it sounds whiny, but there is a serious disrespect and exploitation of interns and low-level workers. Its a lot of discouraging experiences and frustrations that make me wonder “is this how it is going to be for the rest of my life”? A lot of the issues that I have had personally in the past couple of months have boiled down to issues of communication, project/personnel management, and respect. It’s been difficult to actually do anything about these issues because I am a low-level intern and I am at a VERY hierarchy-based organization. But it’s been very eye-opening in terms of what I am going to be looking for moving forward.

Also, being post-grad has made me hate money. A lot. Part of this is a bit of resentment at the fact I am an unpaid intern. Thankfully my parents have been generous in helping me to offset some of my housing costs to be able to take this internship. But even with that, I’m broke as hell. I have just enough money in my checking account to pay this month’s housing costs (I’m simply waiting for the check to be cashed) and $12 for my dinner on Saturday. I have to have a side-job in order to afford groceries and to save for my last month of housing costs. It’s stressful. I love my side job (walking dogs) but at the same time resent the fact I have to be chained to this side job jumping on any and every walk request so I’m making enough money. It’s stressful and its hard not to find yourself fixating on it. Not to mention when my student loan payments start coming due in 3 months, according to my exit counseling I should be making $40,000 a year (without any other cost of living expenses) so that my loans aren’t a burden. How is one not supposed to scream? And if you’re one of the people moving to a new city for a new job into a new apartment…the costs add up. It makes a lot of sense why people are so obsessed with how much their jobs are going to pay them because economic stability and quality of life hinge on it.

Then there’s grad school. I still have no idea if I am going, if I am going to be able to afford to go, and where I’d go. It’s difficult because this is also the time when I should be applying for jobs. It’s just another layer of complexity that adds on stress. And if I don’t get in, what do I apply for next year? As all of the possibilities of the world yawn open before me, how am I going to be able to narrow down my likes and options into a program that I can get into?

I just wish that it was normal to talk about the transition from college to the rest of your life. It’s a huge step and I was so not mentally or emotionally prepared for any of it. I’ve been able to find other friends to whom I can talk to but even so right now I am going it alone. It’s allowed me to learn a lot about myself but at the same time its been hard to work through all of it. I just wish as a culture we would stop making things seem ‘easier’ than they are so that we could just be honest and help each other. It would make everything so much easier

 

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Looking Backward, Stepping Forward

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

It has been 3 weeks  now since I have been home from college. I managed to get through my third year of college, and my first year at Ithaca. And I am very, very tired.

Going into Ithaca I struggled. I felt incompetent. My brain felt rusted-over from a perturbing semester abroad, and a distressing summer spent working jobs that well, I sure as hell didn’t love. I was hoping, dreaming that Ithaca would be my place, that I would find my people. The strain of the cost of college and being unable to find employment gnawed at me constantly, and I faced an immense fear that I would not do well in my classes and that I would not succeed. But in the end, I pulled through and managed to make Dean’s List. Twice.

While I  had at least come to accept that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was still living in denial. At midterms in October, I pushed too hard, stressed too much and had a painful flare that left me incapacitated. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t finish my midterm essay. At the moment, I was frustrated, but there is still an immense wave of frustration and shame. I can’t work the way that I used to anymore. I felt like an alien trapped in my own body.

But I made it and whipped my mind back into shape. I approached the next semester eager and ready for my second round with 18 credits. But within a month, I realized that it was way too much. The cold of CNY winter chilled me to the core. My body, already exhausted from engaging in RA’s driving my immune system into a warp speed frenzy of ‘cannibalistic’ practices tired so easily with the cold. I could sleep for 12 hours a day, and still be sleepy. My class load was more intense, wading deeper into upper-level classes that require more time, thought, and homework I found I had next to no time to socialize. Sleep and School. On top of this, I forgot how cloudy and dreary CNY is, and I felt the lack of sun in my productivity and my overall mood.

There comes a point in all of this that I suddenly realized that part of me regretted my decision to come to Ithaca. That perhaps, I made the wrong choice. As the semester progressed, I realized that while I was making friends, I was making more acquaintances than friends. I felt so incredibly lonely. As an old soul, non-drug/non-alcohol user, who is always incredibly emotionally invested in everything, and a painfully shy introvert posing as an extrovert, I felt like I hadn’t found my people. And I need my people for support. As I thought about reaching out to other friends in other places, I found myself hesitating and stressing over whom to turn to.

I felt super shaken still about grades and academics, and for a few brief weeks seriously considered dropping my second major in history down to a minor. Will I even be capable of grad school, or would my RA reduce me to a dependent, pathetic mess? Which rattled me enough that I became unsure of what it is that  I want to do.

On the brink of despair, I finally admitted that it was time to sit down and see a therapist. So I did. And I will continue to do so in the fall. I still have a lot of mourning and emotional processing to do with my RA. And the first step has been realizing no more  18 credits a semester. The second step had been accepting that I need to exercise and yoga consistently to keep my body strong but to also manage stress and keep it low. Thirdly I need to choose wisely where and into whom I put my time and energy.

I still feel lost, I still feel uncertain, I still feel alone. But I know that I must, that I can, and that I will endure. I know that I will make the most of my remaining classes, and next year will continue to cultivate the good friendships and things in my life. I’ve bought some books on RA to help educate me moving forward. So far this summer I’m already feeling recharged. I’ve been running with my mom and I have been significantly less stressed. I have spent some beautiful moments with some friends that have made me feel loved and supported and capable of taking on the world.

It is difficult some days but I have to keep thinking forward, to not let my pain and new limitations get me down. I can, and I will succeed if I put my mind to it.

22 Ways to Put Things Off During Midterms

Midterms are the worst because mentally you can never prepare, and you still have class to go to and homework  while trying to write essays worth 30% of your grade while somehow not going crazy. So what is a stressed college kid to do but procrastinate?

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  1. Exercise. Go to the gym, go to exercise class, decide to pick up water polo. I mean, at least it will help you with stress and sleeping. So that makes it productive and necessary right?
  2. Go to a career related workshop then update your LinkedIn. Heck, update all your social media: profile pictures, bios,  do some posts, share some photos. This includes updating your icon image for all your emails: personal and school. While your at it, have a new head shot taken.
  3. Volunteer to model for you friend’s photo shoot they have to do as an assignment. That makes you a good friend because YOU are helping them get their homework done. And I mean, someone’s homework got done for crying out loud.
  4. Sleep. Take a nap. Learn how to sleep sitting up. Contrary to popular belief, sleep is crucial. So don’t skimp unless you have to.
  5. Plan how you are going to study and get everything done. Then don’t follow the plan and watch everything fall out of place and get more stressed out.
  6. Do research for your paper that is due at the end of the semester. It is a bigger percentage of your grade and I mean you do need to  find those sources so you can maybe read them during break next week.
  7. Watch puppy videos, because they make you feel not stressed and sad about life for 30 seconds at a time.
  8. Take a shower. You feel like you can conquer anything when you are squeaky clean and smell like a garden.
  9. Organize your bookshelf and all your books. You need to know where everything is and know you have refreshed your memory and will be able to find everything when you finally sit down to study.
  10. Eat and hydrate. One cannot think on an empty stomach, nor when one is dehydrated. Also, I can’t be the only one who sometimes eats their feelings. And I mean you do kinda need to clear out the fridge of anything that might go bad over spring break.
  11. Speaking of spring break, why not plan everything you are going to do now? Organization is the key to success!
  12. Change your sheets so that when you nap and sleep you are enveloped in the comfort of clean smelling things.
  13. Do Laundry. So that way you can feel semi put together in your freshly laundered sweats as you drag yourself to class half awake.
  14. Bond with your friends. Take these moments of stress and anxiety to take a break and get to know each other even better. You’ll be bound to get at least one laugh out of it, and laughing feels good and since you’re both stressed laughing is a good way of dealing with all of the stress that you are feeling.
  15. Do free writing. Write a letter, poem, short story, gay “300” erotica. At least you can say you were motivated about something. And writing is incredibly therapeutic.
  16. Have a minor existential crisis about what you are doing, your life, what you are studying.
  17. Call your parents. Have them bring the dogs to the phone or the webcam so that you can talk to them, and your parents can tell you how they recognize your voice and are looking for you. At least someone loves you unconditionally and misses you.
  18. Decide to pick up a new hobby or skill. The more ridiculous and unrealistic and time consuming the better.
  19. Lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling and cry.
  20. Go through your clothes. Figure out what no longer fits and try on everything to find the perfect empowering power study outfit.
  21. Go through your backpack and clean out. In the process find the assignment sheets you probably should have located last week not the night before the paper is due. But at least you are doing it.
  22. Inner monologue yourself up to actually getting your work done. Because as much as you hate midterms and all the stress you’re here at college and you’ve gotten this far. You’ve got this rodeo. You can, and will survive.

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No. 1’s Report

It has been a busy July so far, with no intent of slowing down. But I don’t mind.

I have always like Lana Del Rey. Since I first heard her sing their was something about her voice and her lyrics that just soothe me. I mention this because I find summers sad, and often unbearably lonely. They draw everyone and everything in different directions and while there is downtime and free time to be had, at the same time schedules never match and plans go unrealized. It gets depressing at times, and perhaps I spend way too much time talking to my dogs or catching naps between shifts. But I guess it is important to enjoy it while it lasts. Work, internships, grown-up responsibilities: They seem too close at times. I am excited that I am learning and growing and developing. But sometimes the perpetuation of lazy summers is something I want to never give up. There is a certain nostalgia and feel to them that you always smile about even on the days you are bored to tears.

I paid of my library fees, had an eye exam and picked out new frames, and got my hair cut again. I liked my hairdresser today. She was young and sweet and comforted me with the fact that not all young people enjoy drinking, and not all young people like going out every single night and party hard. I say this because I cannot drink, due to the medication I am on(I am more than willing to elaborate if you ask me personally). I do not mind tagging along, but sometimes I feel very out of place and even strange for not having an alcohol-centric life, and that I never will. That I enjoy and prefer a lot of things over events and gatherings involving it and centering around its consumption. I don’t like it: not the taste nor the way it makes me feel or the way I feel like I am fighting to maintain control of my body. I don’t mind if you do, I just ask you to respect that I don’t like it.

Work is work and if all goes well in the next month (literally, I have like a month until I’ll be panicking about moving in), I will have made enough to pay what I need to for the fall. I will probably end up working in the dinning hall but there are worse things in life. Hell, as I have found out sometimes dinning beat retail in terms of experience and dealing with customer problems. Also, in dinning they don’t require you to shove lines of credit down people’s throats. But anyway, I think i am going to be really happy at and in Ithaca. Another day closer to classes which I am eager to begin and thoroughly excited about. I smile thinking about buying my textbooks. That might make me crazy, but what can I say, I am zealous about education and I so happy to finally begin studying what I am passionate about.

I ran a race on the 4th of July with my mom. A fundraiser one, small, but for Ovarian cancer research. The woman that gave her my current beautiful bedroom set passed about 2 years ago after a long battle with it. We wore a set of our matching shirts(Minions!) and jogged at a nice comfortable pace. It was one of those days that made me love running. They also had a raffle auction and we bought some tickets and I won some hair products.

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Look Ma, I didn’t win a stripper!

This past Sunday I went to Buffalo with my mom to keep her company for T.’s Orientation. On Monday night, we went to Niagara falls, me for the first time. It was a small little town and we walked through the state park and strained with the other tourists to get a view of the falls. We planned to come back the next day and do all the stereotypical things, but as we opened the door of our hotel(more like motel) room to the parking lot it was pouring. So we drove over anyways and first went to the Aquarium. Small but quaint.Then we walked to Canada, in the pouring rain huddled under our one umbrella. It was interesting not only how much cleaner the Canadian side was but more picturesque and inviting. Also, a lot more stuff to do. They also get the better view of the falls. We had some ice cream before we strolled back. I have finally, officially, been to Canada.

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Now if only it wasn’t raining…

I also potted my mint Plant and Lavender today! I am quite proud of myself for growing the lavender from itty bitty little seeds, and for not killing either of them yet. I am hoping to bring one or both to college, hoping being the keyword.

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Started Woolf’s “Orlando” and on deck is Atwood’s “Year of the Flood”. I have finished my fourth Star Trek series and I have yet to begin any others, or even finish The Next Generation Movies. I don’t like the finality of it being over and not being able to ‘tag along’ anymore. Of course I can start all over again, but you can anticipate. And I am sure all of those sucker punches they threw will hurt just as bad as the first time around. Silly as you may think it sounds, Star Trek has gotten me through a lot, and a lot of it rings near and dear to my heart. It has inspired me and aroused my curiosity and I wouldn’t be myself without it. It has spurned a love of sci-fi and perhaps hope in humanity’s future.

At least things like these will never cease to make me giggle.

At least things like these will never cease to make me giggle.