Taking the Long Way

A celebration of late bloomers.

Posts Tagged ‘graduate school

First Impressions

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So today is the last day of graduate school for the five of us who entered the Savannah College of Art and Design’s writing program together in September 2009.

Whoopi Goldberg is slated to deliver our commencement address. I wonder if she’ll cut the stinky cheese like she did on The View this past week. It must’ve smelled like a rotting animal carcass by the way Barbara Walters jumped into Dr. Oz’s lap [maybe Barbara was just looking for an excuse to give Oz a lap dance, that saucy minx!]. Dr. Oz was explaining how farting is healthy, and Whoopi let an SBD rip. This is good news, because I guess my husband is going to live forever.

But, I digress…

We five – Jenny, Amber, Austin, Elisa and I – sat around a table at SCAD’s book store (how appropriate) with the chair of the department and introduced ourselves. We straddled generations X and Y. We were very unsure of one another.

Dr. Lough was professional in his tie and perfect posture, but he immediately established that he was affable and a little bit subversive. I thought we were going to get along…until he made some comment about Foucault, and I ran screaming (in my head for the nearest reference book, believing I was such a fraud to think I could ever make it in a grad school writing program).

Jennifer Marie Dunn

The fabulous Jenny D.

Jenny D. sat there in her wife-beater with a trucker cap that read, “I just got paid and am looking for a good time.” She mentioned that she worked in construction…in New Orleans…after Katrina. I was scared shitless of her.

Amber may be pint-sized but she's a force.

But I was more scared of Amber, who wore a flannel shirt over a T-shirt and said she’d been in the Peace Corps and now ran a biker bar in Daytona Beach, Florida – the epicenter of authentic black leather Hogs (not ridden by Rubs). She didn’t smile once.

The amazing Austin with vegan cupcakes.

Austin wore skinny jeans and a retro Cowboy shirt. I couldn’t understand a single thing he said, low-talker that he is. But, I could tell he was intelligent and deep. He wore burlap shoes – Toms, I think – that respected animals. He was the epitome of hipness, without the trust-fund disenfranchisement skulking around Savannah.

Eli Ridiculi - the festive party girl.

Eli smiled broadly and bounced like a cheerleader. I could tell she had been in a dance troupe at some point in her life. She spoke about a break-up and a layoff, and about how both of those events caused her to take stock of what she wanted out of life. So she took the bull by the horns…and enrolled in grad school, which is what we all did.

I’ve been told that I came across as a know-it-all brownie hound (Urban Dictionary, #4). That’s what happens when you are nervous and latch on to anything that sounds familiar.

I could not have foreseen at that moment how much these people would come to mean to me. As we took classes together and shared our writing, we revealed our innermost – the dark scary parts, the lyrical moments, the sublime, the understated, the laugh-out-loud, the lessons, the failures, the hopes. We overcame those first impressions and grew into a family. We celebrated birthdays, engagements and weddings. We consoled heart breaks and hardships. We forged bonds that will last beyond the grad school daze.

I will never forget –

  • How Jenny Dunn’s poppy-seed cake nourished Brian and I as we drove all night to be at my father’s bedside as he left this life to pass on to the next.
  • The sound Jenny’s foot made as it fractured against her tile floor after she made a perfect leap to Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.”
  • How Amber brought me food when I was too sick to get out of bed. So did Austin. He brought me groceries from Trader Joe’s and homemade tomato soup made by his mom.
  • When Eli bought a round of drinks to celebrate the cookbook.
  • Going over to Austin and Lyndsay’s place the day they brought Olivia home.

We all watched each other’s dogs. Maybe that’s why we got along so well – we’re dog people…and word people.

We’ve carved pumpkins together. We’ve workshopped our stories, talked about our futures, made Boilo, endured medical scares, drank too much, and we welcomed others into our little band of gypsies – J. Char and Nate, Kate, Cameron, Lynn, Sarah, Becca and Jim…
We don’t completely know what’s next, but we had no idea how this chapter of our lives would turn out when we started it…and it’s been a great read.

Written by The Long Way

June 1, 2011 at 6:00 am

Kickin’ it old school

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I majored in liberal arts. Would you like fries with that?

~Bumper sticker on car in front of me

Yesterday I attended a career fair for the first time in nearly 20 years. I haven’t actively looked for a job in almost that amount of time. I kind of fell into my previous positions. One was posted on the bulletin board where I attended graduate school. It led to a one-year internship that then led to a full-time position that then led to my being recruited by a national nonprofit.

After 16 years, I decided I had drifted so far away from what I really wanted to do and went back to school. Now, as graduation looms in the not-so-distant future, I found myself standing in an exhibit hall that was both airy and stifling.

I approached the day much as I had lo’ those many, many moons ago. I was prepared with my clean and neat resume (in hard copy), and a few writing samples. I used my orange highlighter to mark the firms looking for writers so that I could make the best use of my time and theirs.

While I was filled with anticipation, the hall was filled to the gills with fourth-year seniors and graduate students all vying for face with a potential employer in a market tighter than when I graduated from college the first time. (My timing must forever be off, because the week I received a bachelor’s degree in 1990, Time Magazine published an article that same week with a headline that read, “Graduating to Unemployment.” I stopped reading Time around then.)

As a non-traditional student (read: “mature”), I found myself standing in line behind fresh adults at the beginning of their careers while I was shape-shifting in the middle of mine. They had beautiful portfolios and laptops filled with innovative graphic designs, animation, industrial and product plans. They were ideating. I was trying to appear comfortable in a business dress.

I spoke to a few companies, but quickly learned that the skill set “writing” meant “ad copy.”

I was thisclose to leaving without going around the hall even once. Then I happened upon one organization that was seeking someone who could write strategic reports for institutional effectiveness. The face of the student standing next to me appeared blank and misunderstanding. I, however, had been around long enough to know that these were fancy words for annual reports, assessments and plans. I knew how to write those, and if the job could help me chip away at those student loans – also looming large – then I could do that while I freelanced elsewhere.

The recruiter and I had a good conversation. She was encouraging and not at all taken aback that I had both blemishes and wrinkles on the same face. She asked for my resume, and I handed it over…

…only to realize that I had a small typo (a misplaced hyphen) on the first line.

If only I’d had my laptop with me.

Written by The Long Way

April 9, 2011 at 8:13 pm