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!

What 2020 taught me, and hopefully taught you

2020, it’s been a hell of year. But I wouldn’t even put the emphasis on the hell. Sure, COVID-19 took a lot away this year, for some people more than others. The Cheeto in Office finally signed the relief bill (too little too late.) But I’m not here to talk about politics. I will say this: our country may be severely divided, but community is more important than ever these days. I know we’re all sick of the “we’re all in this together” phrase, at this point in time, but my goal in 2021 is to make this blog a community. Life’s too short to be all “me, me, me.” In fact, I try not to make it all about me because I want college students and graduate students to know what I wish I knew and to provide little “philosophies,” if you will.

2020 has taught me more about myself and my capabilities more than ever before, and even more about what I can do with my brand. And it hopefully taught you all to be more appreciative for what you have, rather than focus on what you want. But if you focused on what you wanted, it probably came true in more cases than one. Even though COVID-19 took a lot away from us, I believe it still gave us opportunity for growth. My goal at the very beginning of the year was to gravitate less towards negativity and more towards that growth, and it’s brought me more hope than I had say, back in February or the month of April (yes, I always have to make that distinction between the month and my name.)

Without further ado, here is what 2020 taught me, and hopefully taught you, as well:

  1. Take no crap, from anyone.
  2. If people say, “you think life is all roses,” let them. There’s nothing wrong with being happy.
  3. Grow a backbone, and call out others who don’t have the balls to grow one.
  4. Graduate school (and college) are times to explore and try out different avenues. When I was in my last semester at RWU, I took a Law and the Family class while interning at a Domestic Violence resource center. And this past Fall 2020 semester at Emerson I took a Book Publishing Overview class, when my concentration is in magazine publishing.
  5. With that being said, apply to jobs and apply yourself to things you haven’t even considered doing.
  6. Learn how to fend for yourself.
  7. Therapy is important and nothing to be ashamed of.
  8. Being an influencer is not as important as being a good role model.
  9. Everyone makes mistakes, you just have to have to take responsibility for those mistakes.
  10. Take that leap of faith, no matter what it is. In fact, only you know what that is.
  11. Be a positive force in someone’s life. You never know who needs it.
  12. Also with that being said, be kind because you never know who’s fighting what battle.
  13. Someone’s success is not your failure.
  14. In other words, jealousy isn’t worth it, and neither is comparing yourself.
  15. Also, we all go through life at a different pace, and we go at our own pace.
  16. Patience and acceptance are virtues. Accept the things you cannot change.
  17. If you feel like you can change something, ask and you shall receive.
  18. It’s better to be alone than to cry and agonize over people you’re trying to please. Let them go and stop making excuses for them.
  19. Be nice to essential workers, from an essential worker.

I was going to put a twentieth teaching, but I’ll leave that one up to you folx. I don’t know what 2021 will bring, but I know that with each year, despite their drawbacks, have many valuable things to contribute. And you have a few wonderful things to add, as well.

BLOG-MAS Tuesday: You’re your only competition

I remember looking at colleges, wanting to be a lawyer with a cool chemistry background. The schools that I was applying to were extremely competitive. I’d be applying to schools with much more competitive attitudes about applying than I ever had.

Now, as a writer with a whole other motive in life, I find it easier to compare myself to other creatives. However, here’s the plot twist: what if I were my own competition?

That, my friend, is the philosophy that I’ve been following in life nowadays. I haven’t fully come to terms with it until today when I was interviewing my Associate Editor at Rhode Island Monthly. She said she likes to compete with herself every year when entering feature writing contests every year, to see how she improves.

Now, I am at the end of my first semester of grad school, that has taught me more what I wanted to know than anything else (but I guess that’s the point of a master’s degree.) I am beyond grateful to what Emerson offers me, and I am blessed to have taken the leap of faith to write and publish my poetry book. Not only that, but I learned I am a Muckraker, which by definition is someone who uncovers the dirt. In the case of journalism, it’s someone who “uncovers the dirt” in investigations for the sake of reporting and informing the public of what’s going on. I knew this was a phrase already, as I love to playfully troll the page my “fans” created for me on muckrack.com. Who comes up with this? I have no idea. That’s just the beauty of the internet, folx.

I have known school for the past 20 years, now. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to give up learning quite yet. But the truth is, you’re learning everyday. You don’t learn from what other people do, you learn by doing, which is the beauty of grad school. Competing and comparing yourself to others, I’m sorry to say, won’t get you anywhere except for defeating your ostensible “competition,” or worse, getting heartbroken over something that won’t even matter in a year, months, or even a week. Not to mention you only damage relationships, that way.

You can’t help but have that expectation of yourself, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get that 100% on an English test (that actually happened to me, yes.) I also have received the full credit on a paper. I’ve had teachers tell me, “you’re really good at writing,” or “you should be proud of this essay.” But I set beyond-unrealistic expectations of myself, and that’s just me. Perfection is indubitably a weakness of mine. But instead of competing with others, like I did in high school track & field, I compete with myself to see if I can do better, to improve myself.

If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.

I realized I never gave an update on graduate school, but I am here to tell you and be candid with you per usual, it has been hard, especially during these uncertain times. Yes, we are living in a pandemic, and I am still following Emerson’s hybrid education model. It is extremely difficult getting back and forth to Boston every Wednesday! Sometimes I wish I only took two classes instead of a whopping three, but that is just the overachiever in me. But everyday I wake up, and I am utterly thankful that I actually get to go to graduate school, that I actually have a laptop that works, even without a battery… long story. Plus, my caffeine-addicted butt gets to enjoy a sip, or a couple hundred, of some caramel or pumpkin spice every stop I get. 

I am not here to complain, but it does get stressful. I get home late, but when I am not in Boston, I am working at my local Dollar Store. As I thought about my move four years ago, I couldn’t help but think that every “leap year” has its ups and downs – for some, they may seem like they only have their downsides. October is the worst of it. You can read my blog post Spooky Season = Anxiety Season? But despite what the ghosts of October tell me, I am not going to quit just because it’s that time of month or whatever. 

During this time last year in October, I wanted to move to the city. That was a bust from the get-go. I didn’t have a job outside of work-study, I didn’t know how to pay bills (I still don’t), and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be a lawyer, like I had planned then. Publishing was always secretly in the back of my mind. I didn’t really have a steady plan, to begin with – just hopes and dreams that I prayed would become a reality. I remember waking my mom up in the middle of the night after having a revelation that I would go into publishing, not law. Days later I was accepted at Emerson, and I went against my own will and bought Shiraz. Again, only you have the power to make your dreams a reality. 

How exactly do you make your dreams a reality, you may ask? 

  1.  A planner does wonders for your organization habits. If your current planner doesn’t already do wonders for you, get a new one! Picking the right planner is like picking the right bra. 
  2.  Start every morning with a mantra. Avoid saying “I hope today is a good day,” and start saying “I know today is a good day.” 
  3.  If you do decide to move like I tried to, look up Fresh Start – The Moving Crew.

Fresh Start – The Moving Crew does residential moving in Worcester County, and the company originates out of cities like Providence, Hartford, and Springfield. Their headquarters extends out of larger regions such as Berkshires, Cape Cod, Long Island, Manhattan, New Jersey, and even the White Mountains! They do furniture moving, commercial moving, residential moving, and even packing! 

Fresh Start

Maybe I am just craving that fresh start to my already-fresh-start that is grad school. There were times where I have debated moving to Paris with very minimal French in my foreign language vocabulary. There were times where I have genuinely thought about dropping out of school, but that would mean losing everything I originally wanted to achieve. I didn’t come this far to give up my dreams of working in a big ol’ publishing company. Your dreams really do deserve to be achieved. Do I even need to include a gif of Shia LeBeouf? (If you know, you already know!) When I do make the move to the city in the near future, I will be sure to call up Fresh Start and book my moving appointment. 

Moral of the story: you can whine in your blog posts all you want. You can try to manifest your desires using water, or whatever. You can pray all you want, but the thing is: if you want something to happen, YOU have to put in the work. YOU have to put in the mass amount of effort it takes to move, start your own business, and get the grades you want. 

EMPOWER NOT TOWER: “Go big or go home?” Is it really worth sucking on bone marrow?

It was a Tuesday morning and I woke up an hour later than intended. I wanted to get up early, put on some makeup, and put on a cute dress to take over the createHER Collective Instagram story for the day. That didn’t happen exactly as planned, but I handled it better than what my expectations were the previous day.

I ended the night signing off to watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” but also signed off with a whole lot of new perspectives on empowerment and the phrase, “go big or go home.”

The first time I ever heard that phrase was on my very first day of high school when one of my teachers talked about the time she broke her vegetarianism to eat a huge burger — bone marrow and all.

But should we really go by this phrase? The answer is no, and I’ll tell you why.

I remember going by this phrase when applying to undergraduate schools — didn’t work out! I followed this phrase when I started submitting my poetry and artwork to the top literary magazines in the country — didn’t work out! That’s when I started looking at smaller publications that I never even heard of until I joined Twitter again. Those definitely worked out (and helped me build a killer CV to use for grad school apps if I do say so myself.)

When looking at graduate schools too, for my MFA, I had that same superficial outlook that I had when I was a junior/senior in high school. I wanted to apply to (and googled) “Best MFA schools in the U.S.” But coming from a “small-but-bigger-than-SAC” school like RWU, who knows if I even stand a chance? What I learned, especially from being in the [insert 2 Ivy League schools here] applicant Facebook groups, just because they are ostensibly the “best,” “top-tier,” and “among the elite,” that doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for you.

My point in bringing up undergraduate and graduate institutions is that it’s not worth gnawing on your thumb right to the bone marrow to prove yourself — to anyone or anything. I was reminded of a poem I wrote:

Perfection is a weakness of mine

To be honest, when I was in high school, I strived for perfection and I’ll be honest it gave me a little OCD!

I’m trying to gnaw on this idea of being perfect;

I chew it down right to that savory bone marrow

until there’s nothing left to even suck on anymore—

at this point all I’m doing is sucking on that

circular piece of bone. The bone is in my right thumb

and I’ve sucked on it so much to feel like I’ve lost

all feeling.

 

Perfection is like sucking on a piece of bone marrow—

you cleanse it of all the meat and the cells that go with it,

until there’s nothing anymore. It becomes addictive,

like a fidget toy. People tell you you’re doing great by

cleaning it and getting all the necessary juice to make you

feel manly, accomplished, whatever. Then you become

addicted to being perfect and receiving that praise.

Even when you feel like you’re unappreciated, just know that you’re doing a great job and people really do appreciate what you do and how hard you work. If they don’t, it’s their loss!

Moral of the story: PERFECTION IS UNATTAINABLE!