Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Graduate School Recap

In 2009, I set out to earn my Master's Degree in Publication Management from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I really had no idea what that meant at the time and still am a bit unclear. This journey has been intersting to say the least. As I reflect back on the crazyness that was my graduate school experience, I offer the following advice for anyone who is considering the same route.

Lessons from the Classroom
• E-books are important. They have revolutionized the publishing industry. Blah Blah Blah.
• Amazon and iTunes are evil. Blah blah blah.
• Self-published books are not really ‘books’ blah blah blah
• Self-published authors are no-talent hacks with no merit.
• Rhetoric is a term only used by people who think rhetoric matters and those people usually only exist in the academic bubble. See also “discourse”. 
• Adobe Creative Suite is really powerful software than can really advance your skills and value in the workplace…. But we’re not going to teach you how to use it
• Social media is either the best thing ever or the end of civilization.

Lesssons in PowerPoint
Having successfully linked websites and audio for a presentation is incredibly difficult for anyone over the age of 40.
• PowerPoint is the only way to communicate with professors
• The student who asks the most questions during a PowerPoint is also the most likely to have an obnoxiously long PowerPoint Presentation.
• The formatting, background and graphics of your presentation sometimes matter more than your content.
• Preparing a comprehensive presentation about a 20 page article that only lasts 5 or 10 minutes is simply not possible. The professor will schedule all 15 students to give 10 minute presentations and then get pissy when everyone goes over and class is late.
• Classmates will read your inbox if you have emailed the presentation to yourself or use Google Docs.
• Wikipedia is a credible source only when used in a presentation from the department chair.

Lessons in Caffeine
The Starbucks on 34th and Chestnut is superior to the Starbucks on campus. It’s worth leaving 20 minutes earlier than truly necessary in order to have enough time to get a caffeine fix before class.
• The vending machines on campus are probably more technically advanced and powerful than the computers the professors use.

Lessons from/for Classmates
The appropriate pronoun for transgendered persons is Xee and if you don’t know this, you’re an insensitive prick. Apparently.
• Class time is not or should not be time to vent your latest woes or work-related frustrations. Save it for happy hour, please.
• Some students are much more intelligent and diligent than others. Some are more talkative and some are more argumentative. If you recognize this, you can have a very constructive experience and gain more from the discussions than the curriculums. In some cases, classmates may have more relevent experience than the professor in certain areas.
• Graduate school is a very good networking opportunity. Classmates get other classmates jobs at their companies and shared really good career advice. Most of the professors either work in the publishing industry or used to and have ties to the employment opportunities. So, don’t wear sweatpants to class, don’t yell at other classmates, don’t snark at your professors, and do not dismiss the achievements or insights of your classmates. I’ve met several people I’d hire in an instant and some that I’d blacklist…if I had the power.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling (back) in Love with Running

If you want to fall (back) in love with running, volunteer with an organization such as Girls on the Run. I have fortunate enough to be a part of this amazing program and was able help two very special girls complete their 5ks and shatter goals.  I ran with Abby, adorable, admirable, awesome Abby, as she pushed herself to beat her time from last year's 5k and to run the whole thing. Abby, who always raised her hand high and gave a heartfelt, insightful and genuine answer, couldn't believe she had run for 10 whole minutes straight!
"I didn't stop yet!" Then, she couldn't believe she ran 20 whole minutes straight! Then she couldn't believe she ran 30 whole minutes straight! When we realized that we might not beat her time goal, the girl dug deep inside herself and found bursts of speed. She finished strong and with a huge smile. That is all we ask. I loved running with her. 

I got to run with Sophie and her mom as they participated in the ETS Firecracker 5k. Sophie is excitement personified. She is honest, talkative, innocent and just a joy to be around. She saw me across the parking lot and instantly was smiles and hugs. I cannot get enough of this girl. I found Sophie, her mom, and her friend around the first mile and decided to hang with them. Sophie gave it her all in the final .1 of the race and finished with a bright red face, sweaty smile and simply beaming pride. That is all we ask. Be proud of yourself. Try your best. Have fun. Be yourself. 

I've crossed many finish lines and have a rack of medals hanging on my bedroom wall. Sometimes, I take it  for granted. These girls reminded me of the sheer joy of crossing a finish line, of beating a new record, of pushing yourself to do things you didn't think were possible. These girls set goals, worked towards them, and pushed hard to achieve them. There were no excuses. We ignored heat, hills, and heavy breathing to get to that finish line. That accomplishment of  their goal, the look on their faces, the oversized t-shirts, the crocked numbers, all brought that enthusiasm, that feeling back to me. I can't wait to race race again.

If you want to fall (back) in love with running, run with someone you love. I love my boyfriend for many many reasons. And sometimes for no reason at all. On Sunday, we set out for a simple walk on the lovely towpath. I took my Garmin watch because it's one of the coolest gadgets ever--next to maybe God's remote as he calls it. I gave him the watch at the halfway point. Apparently, that was all it took. He became obsessed with the pace and time readings. "We've walked one-tenth of a mile!," "Quick! It's dropping to 15 minutes!" I laughed and kept up. I had to stop and readjust my shoes and told him to go ahead. I ran to catch up and when I got to my rightful place on his right side, he started to run! I think my heart just about burst with pride, joy, amazement, surprise and um...he's kind of fast. 

When we started dating one of his first impressions of me was, "this girl needs something more than running." Imagine how I felt to see him running. He had a really impressive pace for a good amount of time. We stopped and walked and then he pointed to a landmark and said, 'we're going to run to there." Yes, sir! 

Just like finish lines and free t-shirts, I take for granted the those first steps. I remember those steps but I forget them too. It's an incredible thing to watch a loved one take those steps, to lace up those sneakers and to set out to do something that is uncomfortable, new, challenging and unknown. I didn't push him to do it. I didn't say, "I"m a runner and so you have to be too." I would love to help, coach, assist, teach, and run along with him if he chooses to run again. I would never force it because just seeing him try and acknowledge my hobby meant more than a marathon to me. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

..it's the new black.

I was called a bitch by a testorone-driven moron a few days ago. I really don't mind the term. I am, in fact, a bitch. I own it. I'm opinionated, ambitious, strong, passionate and all of those things that a weak minded and chauvinistic male such as the name-caller would be threatened by. I also had called his girlfriend out on some pretty annoying and unnecessary behaviour. He had to jump in to 'defend his woman' and scratch his balls in my general direction. It's so clear that in one statement he thinks so little of woman that he can't even afford a second to think of valid insult and assumes his 'woman' can't fight her own battles.

It's been a few days and the event is still lingering in my head. Do I care about what I was called? No. I certainly don't have high enough regard of the guy who called me this to give his opinion or existence validation. I have been called far worse names by far better people. People of substance and value, with education and valid reasons for theirr accusations, but a dumb redneck does not warrant my attention.  I think I'm just bothered that that mentality STILL exists. I'm sad that the girlfriend, who claims to be a feminist, hid behind a caveman. I'm sad that the words I spoke, though admittedly not said in the most eloquent of voices, were dismissed because a giant alleged insult was flung in hopes of dismissing my points.

I see this all the time, the reaction to a woman is to cut her off at the knees by using terms like 'bitch'  in order to protect the men's balls (or egos if you don't get the metaphor). But this is an age old tactic and really isn't anything worth bitchin' about.

What I really don't like is the new way men have found to diminish the value of a woman. Media headlines have been plagued with the tales of ego-driven, ethic-less politicians getting caught doing unbelievably stupid things. Cheating on their wives, having multiple affairs, sending stupid photos of themselves to teenagers. If one were to take a lesson from the behavior of the male leaders of this country, it could be that women are good only for entertainment value, to inflate inferiority complexes, to pose in pictures, to blame for your own shortcomings (sex addictions, really?) but certainly not worthy of respect or validation. For every celebrity and politician (and isn't it sad that those two job titles are what we consider leaders?) who does this, there are a string of women who are dismissed and erased.  The governor didn't respect his wife enough to stay home? His daughter isn't worth keeping it in his pants for? The women he is sexting or risking his career and his constituents voice in government for has a father, too.

And while all the headline hooplah swirls about sexting and sex addictions, can someone tell me if any progress has been made on the health care bill? Are Republicans still making it a point to let women know we have no choice or say in our own health care as long as they're around because clearly we are not humans with rights--we are simply decorations and toys.

I wish they'd go back to calling us "dolls" and making a point to describe our outfits and use objectifying terms such as bitch or ambitious instead of this new level. I can combat bitch. I figure I'm doing something right when I get called that. I leave you (reader-singular) with my favorite clip from SNL and the mantra that has stuck in my head since Tina Fey first said it, "Bitches get stuff done." 

Monday, June 13, 2011

TL:DR: Life is too short to deal with people you don't like

I confess. I am not cool. I've never been cool or popular or part of the "in crowd." I used to try to be cool and to fit in and to make everyone like me. I was never successful and usually ended at the end of a string of gossip or embarrassment. Eventually, (like yesterday or so) I learned to accept my natural dork and that being me is way more fun -- and easy-- than trying to be anyone else. I have a group of very strong and unique friends who can not possibly be categorized. And there is nothing I wouldn't do for any of my friends and I would not be able to do anything without them. :-)

 As I move through this thing called life, I'm learning more and more the types of people I do like and those I (usually instantly) do not care for. I like authentic people, those who know who they are at their core and rarely stray from that. I like people with passions. I like people who like themselves, but with an acceptable amount of self-deprecation. (As this blog's namesake says, "Humility has buoyancy, and above us only sky.") I like people with loud laughs, light spirits and big hearts. I like people who refuse to be unhappy. 

I stopped trying to make people like me and I stopped worrying about liking everyone. It's perfectly ok to not like a person. There are people in this world who I simply do not care for and I try to avoid them. I've also learned that I cannot fake it. It is very hard for me to hide this. I call it being genuine, others call it bitch. It was kind of surreal to realize I had gone from doormat to bitch. But again, I'm totally fine with that. Whatever. Life is too short to deal with people you don't like.

I can usually pick up on "squiggly lines" vibes from a person relatively quickly. Call it intuition, call it judgement, or call it a low tolerance for bulls&^(.  Sometimes it's a feeling, sometimes it's an action or a string of actions, or one bizarre statement that will get a person on the "You Suck" list of my book. 
Let's follow the formula of "You Might Be a Red Neck if "

  • you are not a stripper but think that dancing on tables or bars (outside the college experience) is socially acceptable...I'm not going to like you. 
  • feel the need to tell every male in a bar that you're not so innocent, are capable of really bad things or like black guys.....I'm not going to like you. (And that has nothing to do with black guys, it's not racist. You can like whomever you want to, just don't drunkly declare it from the top of a bar while trying to take your shirt off. ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE OVER 30!)
  • have ever tried to make me like you....I'm not going to like you. A very wise friend once told me that friendships are organic, not manufactured.
  • pretend to be something or someone you're not.....I'm not going to like you.
  • relive past victories or defeats over and over and over again in an attempt to either garner admiration or sympathy...I'm not going to like you.
  • make excuses for your own shortcomings....I'm not going to like you. 
I am a bit conflicted openly expressing that I don't love everyone. I volunteer with an organization that promotes self-esteem building and healthy lifestyles for young girls. The motto is, "Try your best! Have fun! Be yourself!" Clearly, that last line is my favorite. Because if you're not being true to yourself, it's much harder to have fun.  Try your best is the first part of the triangle;, if you're not being yourself--true to yourself--than even the best efforts are futile.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Post Graduate Life

It's taken close to three years, thousands of dollars, at least 150 Microsoft Word files, 2 jump drives, countless hours of schoolwork, 12 parking tickets, several happy hours, and a significant part of my mental stabiliity but I can finally say that end of graduate school is near and a shiny new Master's Degree will soon be mine for the bragging. I have an independent project to complete over the summer which, compared to the other massive amounts of work and stress of the past 2.5 years, will be a walk in the park.
While the cap, gown, boring ceremony, and goofy photos do symbolize the achievement and finality, I'm just happy to be d-o-n-e. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first applied to Drexel in the spring of 2009 and while I do not regret anything from this experience, I'm ready to be done. Two nights a week for the past two years have been dedicated to driving to classes. The other nights have been spent trying to cram in all errands, training, and extraneous life things. (Ever go grocery shopping, get a pedicure, shop for a weekend outfit and fit in a 5 mile run in one evening-- I have). Weekend plans have been dependent on course loads and any down time at the office has been spent with my nose (discretely) buried in a textbook, scholarly article, or staring at screen waiting for that analysis idea to come to me. Dinner has consisted of either a granola bar/pb&j sandwich/Starbucks treat consumed during a class break or on the commute home. Every minute of the day was scheduled to allow ultimate amount of productivity.

This term has been light on the workload and there have been some evenings when I'm quite perplexed at having nothing to do. No chapter to read, nothing to write, no Powerpoint to prepare, what's a full time editor/part-time graduate school girl to do?

I've been preparing a list of all the things I'm going to do once I get my "life" back. I'm an active person with a very short attention span-- I don't consider watching movies or countless hours of television to be entertaining or worthwhile. (Like, you just sit there and watch? I don't get it). Below is my list of my possible post graduate life activities:

  • Decorate, organize apartment. (Boxes hidden in closets do not equal unpacked)
  • Dedicate more time to this bloggy thing
  • Watch all of the Harry Potter movies (I stopped at #4)
  • Volunteer more with GOTR, Back on my Feet or one of the many organizations that collaborate with ETS. I've been very blessed in life and need to connect with my community
  • Train for 2011 Philadelphia Marathon August--November
  • Explore other areas of fitness outside of running. I've heard of these things called 'bikes'.
  • Read fiction books- for fun-- any recommendations?
  • Reconnect with friends, be social and spontaneous again
  • Travel
I can't plan my "What's Next" List without giving praise to those who have helped me along the way. I met some very amazing ladies in my graduate program who were dealing with almost identical issues. It's empowering to know that there are other women my age at the same stage of their careers going through the same drama in their work and personal lives. Having a group of powerful women to relate to, sympathize with, advise, compete, network and support was invaluable.

I have to thank my family for dealing with a very stressed and edgy daughter/sister/aunt while always being supportive. I'm surprised my mom still has her hearing after the hours of bitchin' I did during my drive home from classes. I thank my friends for allowing me to go into hiding for 10 weeks at time. I thank my bosses for not firing me for blatant abuse of resources and for providing the flexibility to leave early several times a week for two years. I promise to use this fancy book-learnin' for good.

Onwards and upwards. But first, a nap!