Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"In the Real World"

Dear Graduate School Professor

Please stop referring to the 'real world' and the experiences I'll have when I get there. I've been in the real world for several years now. I am not paying you $3,000/quarter to fill a syllabus with real world type situations. You're filling the undergrads (and unemployed graduate students) heads with false notions of editorial analysis and linear review processes that are simply fantastical.

I'd love to have the control and importance to actually receive a manuscript with time to thoroughly review, consider, and edit it. I dream of a conference with the writers when we can discuss the organization and structure of a publication and even spar over the serial comma. What 'real world' does this happen? The majority of the time I'm handed twelve pieces of pre-approved content in nine different formats three days after it was due to the printer and told to make it happen yesterday. I don't worry about complex sentences, I worry about deadlines and SLAs. My biggest issue is not  a stubborn writer; it is a page that dropped off of a PDF in the fourth draft but didn't get caught until press time. I'm fully embedded in this 'real world.' 

 Furthermore, Graduate School Professor, when were you in this 'real world.'? As an editor for a relevent publishing company, I have not yet had to justify my actions to the writer. I've had to cover my ass to the client on countless occasions. My explanations are usually followed with emails and PDFs to prove that I was told to make a change to document.My interactions with writers and clients are CC-ed to at three supervisors (yes, I have three supervisors and maybe four bosses) and all have end goal of  on time and error free. 

In what 'real world' did you exist before joining the cult of the academic where editors were revered as experts? You should rename that section to "The Editor as a Scapegoat." The only time I've had to explain the alternate uses of the passive voice is when trying to defend my ego against a particularly rude email and/or missed order. 

So while we sit here in class at 8:23pm and undergrads are asking mundane questions such as 'so, what if the writer, like, you know, doesn't like listen to you and then they're stuff is like, wrong and people, readers, whatever like read it or whatever. Like, what do you then?" I'm silently screaming, YOU DO IT! THEY PAY YOU AND SO YOU DO IT AND YOU MOVE ON AND WITHIN TWO MONTHS YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT SEMICOLONS ANYMORE. 
And I'm also making to do lists and strategies for how I'm going to handle the 20 emails in my inbox, the 200 pages of an Economics proof I need to check, and the 2 chapters I have to read for your class. Graduate school has been more of an exercise in time management than it has been in professional development. 

Professor, your 'real world' and my real world conflict. My real world is funding your current world. Please join me on the side of practical, true experience and restrain from ideals and theories. The only place ideals and theories work are your 'real world' of old. 



Friday, May 13, 2011

Lessons from 7th Grade

My seventh-grade field hockey coach, Ms. Hammond, used to tell all of the girls on the team, “You’re beautiful.” She didn’t really care if we won or lost the game. She wanted us to know, and sometimes repeat it with her, that we were beautiful. This didn’t always sit well with some of the athletic, competitive girls on the team. I remember thinking it was hokey and was probably trying to either fit in the group or stand out among the other girls on theam. I think this is one of the few times in my middle school/junior high/high school career when I remember hearing the word beautiful in reference to myself. When I heard ‘beautiful’ then, my insecure tween mind instantly said, “whatever.” I saw only my bushy hair that my friends always made fun of, my mouth full of metal, the red splots all over my face. It probably made me uncomfortable.
I recall some kind of political move to have Ms. Hammond removed as coach for being ineffective and telling girls they’re beautiful instead of how to hit a ball.

Let’s fast forward 15 (*gasp!*) years. It’s a crisp spring morning and I’m sitting with a group of eight to ten-year-old girls. We’re discussing what makes us beautiful.

“I’m beautiful because I’m a good friend!”

“I’m beautiful because I’m energetic!”

“I’m beautiful because I’m fun!”

“I’m beautiful because I like to read!”

Yes! Yes! Yes! These girls didn’t roll their eyes and get annoyed that we weren’t talking about ways to win or run faster. Parents enrolled their daughters in this program to hear this message.

When I think about Girls on the Run and the impact it’s having on girls, I find my mind wondering back to that open field in southern Chester County where a loony coach made us profess our inner beauty. A few years later, Molly Barker has the same idea only goes about it differently and to a younger group and a revolution begins. Maybe it wasn’t an idea as much as a revelation. No, I don’t like revelation. What would you call it when you just suddenly get it? Why did it take so damn long for people to understand that beauty doesn’t mean ‘pretty’ and that it’s a good idea to tell young girls this?

So when is the correct time to teach this? Always. It matters. Girls on the Run is at times a bit hokey to me as an adult. I thought it was strange as a kid too. But, as an adult I don’t need to recite the alphabet to spell a word and as a kid letters just looked like funny shapes. Eventually, it should become as common as reading to know that our physical appearances or abilities have little to do with our personal beauty.

I’ve realized that not being told things like “you’re beautiful because you’re fun, smart, energetic, a good reader, a good friend, caring, strong, helpful, intelligent,” has the effect of making a woman believe she is either only beautiful because of her appearance or that she nothing because she is not pretty. There are so many issues that women battle with daily that are caused from this ridiculous disconnect.

Please, let’s tell our daughters they’re beautiful because they’re kind, funny, smile a lot, give good hugs, are good friends, laugh, think, cry. Tell them it’s ok to fail and it’s ok to be different and that life is a lot more than other people’s definitions.

I don’t know if Ms.Hammond wanted us to do anything more than have fun and learn the game of field hockey. She probably wanted her lessons to sink in a lot earlier. It only took 15 years but I finally get what she was saying.

PS: Middle school sports were the very start of my relationship with running.  I was not a great field hockey player. I'd say average on a good day. But I wanted to be on the team because all my friends were and there really wasn't much else to do in our school district during the fall. I lacked talent but I had heart. When the coaches would tell us to run laps, I'd take off like a bat out of hell to get a lead on the other girls. I'd sprint for the first lap and then slow to a bearable trot for the rest.  I may have been guilty of cutting corners and even went as far as to stand towards the outside of the circle so I could get that much more of a jump.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Steps. Effin' Steps.

There are few things more terrifying to runner after a race than a flight of stairs. Sore legs, achy backs, aggravated knees, and  blistered feet join forces to make a usually simple motion into a pain fest of annoying proportions. The medal around my neck suddenly felt a lot heavier as I stared at the flight of stairs in front of me.
"Do I really need to go upstairs? Could I live in this hallway?"
"Would it be easier to walk up backwards?"
"Why did I move to the second floor?"

"If I go up there, I'm never coming back down."
"This. is. going. to hurt."

"Ok, quick like a Band-Aid, just go!" 
"Oww! No more quick! No more quick! Slow and steady. One more step."
"Holy crap. Never running again."

I conquered the stairs of pain and was in my second-story sanctuary when I was faced with another runner's nightmare. Little mini steps such as curbs, sidewalks, any elevation change that requires contraction of the demolished quads in my legs. The legs holler, NO MORE! STOP MAKING US DO THINGS!
"My god. Who put the steps in this apartment?"
"Oh sure, the sunken living room was adorable at the time, but now I just have to bend my knees and apply pressure to go to the bathroom!"

"I can just sit here on the couch for the rest of my life. There is no pain on the couch."
"Oh, dear god never running again."

Other things that will strike fear into the heart of post-race runner:
-getting in to the car
-getting out of the car
-sitting down
-standing up

-crossing your legs
-uncrossing your legs

-the first few steps
-that this pain will never fade
-an empty fridge
-never running again