Saturday, February 21, 2009

No, No... Change Everything

Oh excitement people. Things are happening. Exciting things. But first, a story about how one (me) learns lessons, the life kind.

Many, many years ago (six) I was accepted into an "innovative" graduate program at a "good" school in the Chicagoland area. I had applied to three other schools, but this school.. this was my "long shot;" it was the offer I couldn't refuse. And so, I moved to Chicago to get a master's degree. For a year and a half, I was miserable. I was an insomniac. I was completely and utterly lost. To this day, I do not know if I actually retained anything from the year and a half program.

But this isn't about me. This is about some guy, whose name I can't even be bothered to recall. Some Guy was in my class at said school getting said degree. He was older than me, probably in his early 30s. Midway through the program, you know what he did? He dropped out. Dropped out of the program! Just like that. Gone. Why? I'm sure I don't know the real answer, but he probably just wasn't happy with what he was doing. But at the time I didn't get it. I thought, "That's crazy! We're almost done. Why would he drop out with only two tiny weeny quarters to go?" Probably, as I think about it now, to avert spending thousands of dollars to get a degree that would prepare him for a career that he knew he didn't want.

I get it now. And though I recognize certain things--like had I left my program early it's unlikely I would have stayed in Chicago; therefore, I never would have met MM, etc.--I wish I could have manned up to the realization that sometimes it's OK to quit. If it's the right thing to do for you. I guess at the time, I was too young to make that call. I was on a path I had chosen. If not that, then what?

Oh question, how you have plagued me. Five years, countless thoughts and ideas, research and weighing. Until now.

A post or so ago, I was all incognito about my evil genius plan for moving forward in my career life. But, allow me to digress... after everything, after all this, after the master's degree in marketing, the love for endurance sports, the total rejection of all things I'm doing now... in a way, I've come full circle.

In undergrad, I minored in English for no other reason than because I was good at it. And because I was good at it, I liked it (or perhaps it is the other way round?). I was good at writing papers, good at personal essays, good at reading and shit. See? That sentence alone should prove my English skillz. As if you need proof... I majored in Visual Communications--a degree which served me well, but ultimately I was really no good at it. I mean, I can layout a page in a pinch or whatever, but I didn't have... how do you say? Talent. That's the word.

I started my career in PR at a nonprofit. I loved my job, or I thought I loved my job, but really I just loved (and still to this day, love) my boss. But I thought I loved it so much that I wanted to take it to the next level, and in my mind for reasons I cannot explain, the next level was a career in marketing. So I planned my escape--a master's degree, in the Big City. I applied at a school in Boston, two schools in Chicago. But even as I sat around and researched various marketing programs, I couldn't help but wander over to the English Department web pages. Perhaps a degree in Creative Writing? A masters in English Lit? No, no. I was on a path.

It's always been a thought, you know? English--mostly creative writing because I did my best essays when I was forced to write them for class. I have probably spent countless hours on websites reading about creative writing graduate programs. But it never felt like that direction was right for me. Maybe I'm too pragmatic. Or maybe I recognize the limits of what I can do as a writer.

Who am I kidding? I can do anything.

Then, you might remember, a few months ago, I went on an organization bender. I ripped apart the house, tossed, filed, cleaned, and set up my office. That's when I found every paper I had ever written since I left high school--every college paper, every graduate paper. I paged through each one of them, reading the comments, which ultimately, all pointed to the same fact: if there was anything I could ever count on, it was that I could, and I would, with very little effort, write a damn good paper. Every time. Without fail. And that's when the most important career-related question I have asked myself in the last five years went through my head:

How do people become college English comp teachers?

And so, the research began.

I had this feeling from the start that there had to be a degree separate of English Literature to provide training for this type of career. So I started by going to college English department web pages and reading the bios of the comp professors. Sure enough, most of them have degrees in "Writing and Rhetoric." More research uncovered the one (exactly one) program in Writing and Rhetoric that exists in Chicago, and it is brand spanking new.

"We've been expecting you."

I starred at the Web site for a several days. Maybe it was a week. Maybe it was two. No action. And then, I was reminded just how much exactly I hate my job. Thanks coworker(s). And that was it. The time had come to take a stand. I contacted the program. I met with the director. I sat in on a class. I talked to MM, who is currently finishing his master's degree, about whether or not I'd be good at this (teaching experience = 0), and he said what amounted to the final nail in my marketing career's coffin. "Lou," he said, "You are better at going over my papers than anyone at the writing center. You know how to help me make my papers better without changing my ideas or my writing style." Or something to that effect. It was enough evidence for me.

I am doing this. This is what's next for me, and I know it. I will decide this weekend if I am able to start before Fall quarter (rolling admissions), which will be based largely on the classes they offer this summer. I will likely continue on in my position while I go to school, but this is light. And I will reach the end of this tunnel.

Oh and there's so much more news to come. Just wait. You'll be ever so surprised!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reprieve

Is it really February 10? Because as far as I can tell, it's spring, and not shitty Chicago spring (drizzly, 40 degrees), but real spring with sun and mild temperatures and no excuses pardoning us from the long run because this... this is distance weather.

Alas, it will be gone too soon.

This weather, though a short reprieve, could not have come at a better time. It's been a rough couple of days or seven. For a variety of reasons, many of which I will not go into here, I was a keyed up, anxiety-ridden mess who couldn't stop stressing about the small things... and the not so small things... and the only answer that made sense to me with went something along the lines of, "Maybe if I stuff another handful of Cheerios into my mouth all of this will go away and I will be cured of the evil, awful everything."

It's really not that bad. But I'm nothing if not dramatic. As a side note: I feel bad for the children if I ever have any, or, I don't know, if I'm forced to babysit cause I'm cash-strapped or need to fulfill some community service requirement, because I don't know how I will feed them Cheerios without being all, "Hey give me some of those," and then eating all of the Cheerios. I have always, and likely will forever more, eat Cheerios like I am a two year old, straight out of the box, by the fistful.

But really, what is wrong with me? Oh who the hell knows? It's probably mostly work, a general anxiety that has been growing for months, maybe years. I often think of new careers for myself but the path... the path always seems to complicated, overrun with variables and science courses I didn't take when I should have. But still, it's a fun game. You know, maybe in my next life I'll be a _______________. It's usually something exercise/diet/fitness/endurance sports related, careers that would take decades just to master the prerequisites, don't even get me started on the actual degrees. And it never seems to make sense. For example, in one such scenario, I was to lie about my permanent address on the application to the program just so I could get normal-priced tuition. While I know people do this and I'm really not at all against this situation so that your education is affordable, it wasn't the road I wanted to venture down. But that's neither here nor there really.

So I planned. I planned to think about this whole career thing after I turn 30. After I get married. Maybe sometime in 2010. You know, later after x, y, and x are in order. And then suddenly... in the midst of being angry and pissed and all "poor me" about my job, it appeared. A path. It was a long time coming. But lately, it had been revealing itself to me more and more. Until it finally became clear.

Now, the truth is, there's still a lot to figure out. This isn't necessary "happening" in "reality." But, it just makes so much sense. And I'm really excited about it. More information will be forthcoming. Unless I punk out, which is totally possible.

In other news... Meg, @, and I took advantage of the weather and had a lovely three mile run. It was more than lovely -- good friends, a good run, good conversation -- it was a reminder. It was balancing. Running is nothing less than a gift. Sometimes, I forget that.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

We Came We Saw

My mom lives out in the country now. So driving 20 miles into Columbus during a level two snow emergency at 6am took us about an hour or so. We had already seen the Filene’s sale on the 5 o’clock news--that's a.m. ya'll--but these were the women wearing matching t-shirts who had set up tents on the sidewalk and camped out overnight. There weren’t too many.

When we arrived at 7am, an hour before the door opened, my sister and I jumped out of the car and into the line, which had grown to about 75-100 people. It continued to grow behind us. There was music and dancing, yelling and cheering. People handed out goodie bags filled with paper advertising wedding “stuff,” donuts, and hot chocolate.

At a quarter to eight, our mom joined us in line (she had been sitting in the warm car). Even though she "hates this shit," and we kept telling her to wait in the car until the doors opened and she could just walk in after the line dispersed, she refused. Then she started danced. The people behind us thought she was crazy. I said, "Mom, if you get trampled and we have to go to the hospital I'm going to be really upset." It was all hilarity early in the morning in the freezing ass cold.

The doors opened. A roar rippled through the crowd, the line pushed forward. Mom made it in first, followed about four people back by Sarah and I (how did Mom get so far ahead of us?). I lost them once inside, but we anticipated this. We had a meeting place. I ran toward the already almost stripped bare racks of dresses and managed, by some miracle, to grab two. My mom staked claim to a spot near the purses and minutes later we reconvened. Sarah had one dress. Three measly dresses. Some groups had piles (literally piles of wedding dresses). Immediately though, our measly three grew exponentially as the groups around us threw out the sizes they didn't need. And so it began.

I'm told -- because eventually my brain only processed a sea of white and off white and the occasional weird shade of pink, rather than actual, individual dresses -- that the dress I eventually decided to take home was either the second or third dress I tried on. Immediately, looking into the mirror that we brought with us to Filene's (yes, we brought our own mirror), I allegedly exclaimed, "I love it!"

I remembered none of this. However, I do recall saying something to the effect of, "Well I'm here and I might as well try on everything." So we tried on every single thing, a dozen or so gowns... maybe more? Who knows. I struggled into and out of so many dresses, throwing them over my black strapless slip (yes, that's what I wore, with a black camisole over it and stretch pants, which, if I thought I might really like the dress, I would shimmy out of once the dress was on), I had no clue what I had looked at. But we held on to the dress. Not one other person tried it on. Except for me. Three times total.

And when it finally became clear that we had reached the end of our options, I stood there in the dress, examined myself in the mirror, and went, "I don't know." It was definitely a great dress. Very flattering. It would need minimal alterations. And because we had held on to it since the beginning of the sale, it was still in perfect shape -- no beading missing, no shoe prints on the cathedral train, no rips. And for $250. I mean... come on.

And then my mom said, "Lou, I really think you're going to regret it if you don't get." Sarah agreed.

And that was it.

Mom and Sarah talked me into it. I know that's not what you want to hear. You want to hear that I cried and said, "This is the one," or at the very least someone should have cried, right? I should have known it was the one. But seriously, I barely knew which end of the dress my head was supposed to be poking out of at that point.

I said, "OK." And I bought the dress. Well, Mom bought the dress.

I spent the next several hours hemming and hawing, teetering on the edge of buyer's remorse. We took the dress home and laid it out of the bed, away from all the other shades of white and ripped trains, and women in their sports bras, and tank tops, and full on underwear. There it was, my strapless ivory dress with a sweetheart neckline and an asymmetrical waist and delicate beading (but not too much!), all 40 million feet of it.

That's when I knew I had made the right decision. The pictures don't do the dress justice. It's amazing. It fits. It's incredibly flattering. I mean, I could keep searching for months. I could spend a couple thousand dollars. I could do any number of things trying to find the "one" that makes me break down in tears and wax poetic about what I'm going to wear on my wedding day and makes everyone else puke. But people, I got a wedding gown for $249.99. Please. Try arguing with that. And really, as much as it's all about the dress, it's really not about the dress.

So the moral of the story is, yeah... it was worth it. And I didn't even have to throw a punch, not once.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Teamwork People

I'm pretty sure MM doesn't actually have time to check my blog anymore, but if he does, I need to warn him not to look at this page. It's his choice, you see, not to want to see the dress.

But you want to see it, right?

So here it is on a skinny headless mannequin:

Ta da!

See that tag? It says "$249.99." For real.

Massive train with beading. Oh and the dress isn't really that virginal white white, it's more of an ivory. I just couldn't figure out how to turn off the flash on my mom's camera.

Close up of bodice. This whole asymmetrical waist thing is really flattering. Makes me look almost skinny.

Stay tuned. Eventually this week I promise I will rehash the madness for you.