The truth about second-guessing yourself | End of my first year of grad school reflection

I’ve watched Legally Blonde more times than I can count on both hands. There’s that poignant scene where Elle is venting to Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge also happens to be an Emerson alum… just saying). Before Professor Stromwell hits her with that famous “if you’re going to let that stupid prick ruin your life…” quote, Elle tells Paulette, “it’s the first time in my life that people expected me to become more than just a Victoria’s Secret model.”

In my first year at Emerson, I learned, I worked, I wanted to cry (but didn’t), and I persevered. In my many years in academia, I wanted to give up. Again, I never did. But I feel as though this is the first year I actually didn’t want to give up because I felt purposeful in my career. By career, I don’t mean academia. I mean journalism and magazine publishing.

I tried my hand at book publishing — in the marketing realm to be more specific. Of course, that wasn’t for me. So, why would I try to diverge into another field of publishing? As much as I love to read, I could never market a book for a living. That’s not to say that magazine publishing is any easier.

Moreover, I not only feel but I know that I haven’t second-guessed myself completely. It wasn’t long until I left said book publishing gig when I came face-to-face with the reality it just wasn’t for me! I’ve been committed to magazine publishing since I was reading fan magazines in second grade — everything from J-14 to Tiger Beat.

I write all of this after a fantastic day. I got my first freelance check; I found out that I’m getting an A the best class I’ve taken thus far; and I scored my first “big girl job” in the world of editing. Everything comes in threes.

Another thing about second-guessing yourself is that you’re always left with uncertainty. You can feel this in a relationship, in your course of study, or even in a decision that you made. However, with every decision you make comes a lesson and a blessing in disguise. But don’t get me wrong, you can make the best decision of your life. Years later you’ll be able to say either that was the best decision at the time, or again, of your life. Those lessons can help you in the future.

The thing about uncertainty is that you’re stuck with the mentality that something won’t work out. It can thusly make you physically sick or emotionally exhausted. For example, if you’re “stuck” in what you think is a dead-end job, you’re really not. It’s just a means to an end! And in the end, you’ll always feel grateful. So be grateful no matter what happens!

Burn and Over-Salt Your Peanut Butter Cookies and Eat Them, Too! | Accept Failure

You’re probably looking at the title like, “umm, what? Has April lost her mind already? Three days into the semester?” HAHAHA no. 1) headlines are supposed to capture people in and 2) this actually happened to me on Christmas Eve.

Learning to accept failure is growth. With that being said, I’m going to start off with a different story.

It was my senior year of high school and people were just starting to get college acceptances. The night of the National Honor Society Induction, however, was when the tidal wave of emails from [insert school here] was being sent out while we were sitting and eating our chicken and broccoli ziti. By the end of the ceremony, I had opened up my email in sheer curiosity if I got any emails. I did — from one of my top choices. I couldn’t wait to get home to open the email, but my stubborn butt didn’t want to wait. So, I opened it on my phone, and although there was a slight glitch in the email, I could still make out the words, “We regret to inform you…” There were nine of those in total throughout the next few weeks.

If I had chosen to do anything differently, I would have taken a gap year. In fear of being looked down upon and judged, I didn’t. Another factor that went into my decision is that I would have thought I failed. The fact of the matter is I failed more biology tests and chemistry tests in my first semester of college. But life is not about the “what ifs.” It’s about “what could you do to benefit from your current situation?” In other words, what can be better? For some, it means drastic changes, like myself; I transferred, we all know that (and I got into my top choice transfer). I not only edit documents but I also edit life. When you edit a paper, for instance, you make it better. You may have failed at completing a successful rough draft, but it doesn’t matter because it’s a rough draft. It’s just like how any day is another day. Will that rough draft matter by the time you graduate? No. In fact, in college, rough drafts aren’t even graded. Critiqued? Yes. Edited? For sure. I’m not saying transferring is failing because it’s not. It’s an opportunity to be more content in life. Just like how having your paper edited is an opportunity for a good grade when you hand in your final draft!

I remember when I was applying to colleges, and the prompt I answered was, “what’s one failure you experienced and how did you overcome it?” So I answered with this:

What a great weekend. We’d explored galleries, toured vineyards, and at 8:15 a.m. Mom and I laughed and joked as we strolled to our car with coffees in hand, ready for the long ride home from the Cape.

Fifteen minutes earlier we’d said good-bye and thanks to friends for their hospitality, packed the car and driven straight to Starbucks in a nearby Stop&Shop; fifteen minutes later we’d be marooned with no idea when we’d finally see home.

At the car, Mom slid her key into the ignition and turned it. Instead of hearing the engine turn over, we heard five cheery “dings” … and silence. Ten tries later, Mom began banging her head on the steering wheel, and I realized that we were stranded. Modern day Robinson Crusoes, shipwrecked at Stop&Shop. Not a sand dune or ocean wave in sight. At least we wouldn’t starve.

But, with a dead battery, we might roast. We couldn’t open the power windows and the temperature in the car was climbing fast. After what seemed like an hour — but was only about two minutes — of silence, Mom finally said, “Please open your door and get some air in here.”

“Maybe we should call a cab,” I suggested.

“No.”

“Should we start walking?”

Silence.

“What if we open the hood and take a look?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

My mind raced for solutions, but each idea was rejected. We finally called my dad to come get us. He was eighty miles away, recuperating from knee surgery, and is terrible with directions. Help would take some time to arrive.

I love a good adventure, but it was getting hard to see our situation as exhilarating. As we waited for Dad to arrive I could either listen to Mom come up with new swear words to growl at the car, join in, or find a way to turn things around.

I rummaged through the backseat and pulled out Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Not the best choice in reading material, under the circumstances. Sitting back against the cushioned upholstery of my seat, I swung my feet up on the sun-warmed dashboard, and was soon engrossed in the book. As I continued to read, my contentment soured. This was life imitating art. In the next seat, Mom had given up creative cursing for a magazine, oblivious to how much we resembled characters in O’Connor’s story about serial murder.

Our weekend getaway ended with the two of us marooned and defenseless in a faraway outpost, awaiting a dubious cavalry to ride to the rescue. I had stayed alert for passing psychopaths. Not the most upbeat scenario, but “upbeat” is in the eye of the beholder.  This was an adventure.

Growing up in a small town, I occasionally crave adventure. But I’ve learned that adventure is where you find it. Going to college will be an adventure – without the serial killer, of course. I’ll face challenges – big and small – that I’ll need to meet on my own. I may even find myself stranded somewhere again. There’ll be new members of the cavalry: professors at the top of their fields, friends from many places, RAs, and others. But staying alert, being resourceful, knowing when to ask for help, and maintaining a positive attitude will be just as important as it was back in that parking lot.

When Dad finally arrived, he found us both safe, sound and a little sweaty. “Sorry it took so long,” he said as we unloaded our things. “You must be really bored.”

“Bored? Are you kidding?” I was incredulous. “There was no time to be bored!”

From the corner of my eye I could see his puzzled expression and almost began to explain, then thought better of it. Not everyone is the adventurous type.

So, if you think you’re “washed up” or “not growing,” just imagine where you were 1-5 years ago. And if you feel lost, just remember J.K. Rowling, Tina Fey, or Oprah Winfrey at 23-years-old.

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My Own ‘Silver Lining’s Playbook’

“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

So it’s been, what? A month since I posted? Well, sorr-ay for living my best life! I just started at my new school, and it’s been treating me wonderfully thus far. I’m going to start off by announcing that I am the new Features Editor for my school newspaper! My dream of being an editor is slowly coming true. Being an editor has taught me so much: 1) how to manage my time 2) how to be more creative 3) people skills 4) how to use InDesign (which I’ll probably use in the future) and 5) how to be relentless (in a good way). My section is already thriving with features like “club of the week,” “biweekly series: commuter issues,” and — coming soon — “Bristol businesses and RWU students.” Another thing: I’ve really gotten into American Literature and fashion. Fashion is something I’ve always been into, but there was a time when I considered fashion as a potential career.

I’m just going to keep this short and to-the-point. This is where I say I’ve found my “silver lining.” In my own version of Silver Lining’s Playbook, a girl dealing with mental illness discovers her dream/passion: editing. When I was in the hospital, one of my fellow inpatients told me I should become an editor, and that’s when I said, “he’s right.” I was a writing tutor at my previous college, and I reprised that role at my new school. I realized how much more knowledge and appreciation I’ve gained for the English language. I’ve come through the dark clouds into the bright light that silver linings represent, and while silver linings are not without their challenges, I drew strength from that silver lining to meet those challenges. I wish you all Godspeed in finding all of your silver linings — let me know when you do!

xoxo April