Archives for the month of: February, 2014

MaryKate:

I was thinking about my schedule for the week while driving home last night, and I thought organization and scheduling would be a great topic to open up for discussion on this blog. I used to make schedules for myself only for schoolwork, which left the rest of my week “free” (which meant I napped or hung out with friends). There’s nothing wrong with that kind of schedule but I need a bit of structure and a little push to accomplish all that I can in one day; otherwise, it’s too easy for me to fall into “Oh, I can do this tomorrow.” Inevitably, “tomorrow” changes into next week or next month. I can put things off and I can convince myself that it’s okay, but there is something valuable in being beholden to myself. If I treated myself with the same respect with which I treat my boss or someone who pays me to complete a task, I would get a lot more accomplished!

In order to realize what is important and what I want to accomplish in one day or one week, it is imperative to be organized. I always thought of myself as an organized person: I tend to be a bit obsessive about the way my pens and post-it notes are arranged on my desk and I have always lived and died by my planner. Obviously, that does not necessarily make me an organized person and I realized this fully when I started my job. An amazing amount of organizational skills and the ability to multi-task are required to do well in my position, and I am adapting each day. Recently, though, I have come to realize that maybe I haven’t been organized enough and also way too organized, both in equal measure. Let me explain. Since I graduated with my Masters, I’ve tried to keep a routine in my life and this was important especially when I was a jobseeker and picking up small, freelance jobs here and there. I had to get used to the fact that I was no longer a student and, in my mind, no longer allowed to lounge around at home with no direction as though I was on a break from classes. I had my future professional life on the line and a schedule had to be made to ensure that I spent a good part of my day networking and searching for job opportunities. The way that I used to organize myself, only by writing down when I had to go to work or when I had class, didn’t work for me anymore. I couldn’t stick to that specific, blocked-out time frame because I no longer had specific blocks of time set aside for work or job-searching. I had to become more organized in a different way. I had to realize that what I want to accomplish in a day doesn’t amount to just work; it includes time with family and friends, and time for myself, too.

In my mind, staying organized doesn’t just mean making a To-Do list and crossing off each task as it’s completed (though I think there’s value in that, too). It’s also about making more time for things that mean the most to you. I want to be healthy and productive, so waking up for work on time and eating breakfast as well as walking or going to the gym are major priorities for me. I want to do what I love, so I make time for writing this blog and doing other projects, as well as some down-time, like reading and listening to music. I want to keep in touch with family members and close friends, so I make sure to email or call my grandmother often, hang out with my cousin, and talk to close friends almost every day. Despite the fact that I have to make time for some of these activities in my busy life, I do not consider them to be chores; in fact, I find that looking at my plan for the week just reminds me that I will have time to do what I already love to do.

I think without this “organized schedule,” I could possibly just fall into a rut where I retreat within myself and go through the motions of my day. I think the difference between my new organized self and my old organized self is purpose. I want to engage with myself and with others, and in order to do that I have to seriously think about what I want to accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

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Heidi:

I’ve been dealing with shame lately.

Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Before I became familiar with Brené’s work I hadn’t thought much about shame, except that it might have something to do with guilt.  I know now that it has a completely different meaning than guilt, which is completely healthy and necessary.   Guilt = “I did something bad” and shame = “I am bad”.

I was gifted an ecourse on “The Gifts of Imperfection” with Brené Brown for Christmas.  Brené Brown’s work has been teaching me about all sorts of things like cultivating authenticity and being able to be fierce and kind at the same time instead of a people-pleaser or perfectionist.  But one of the most helpful things it’s teaching me is the importance of self-talk around shame.  I am learning that the ways in which we talk to ourselves can have a profound effect on who we are.

I’ve been identifying the places where shame hits me most and I’ve found that when I’m at college, it’s in the classroom.   I have shame triggers around intelligence.  For most of my life I have felt less-than in the classroom.  I’ve felt not smart enough.  That “not enough” feeling is rooted in shame.  It makes me want to “armor up” and shield myself by not talking in class, which has dangerous outcomes as far as my education goes.

Evidently, I’m working on my self-talk.  One of Brené’s suggestions is to talk to yourself like someone that you love.  The other day when I left class feeling confused and down on myself I thought to myself, “You are so stupid.”  I literally caught myself saying that in my head.  Can you imagine saying that to someone you love and support?  No.  You would say, “I love you.  Everyone has to go at their own pace to learn.  You’re on the right path and if you stick with it, you’ll get it.  It’s a learning process.  You can do it!”  Additionally, you would probably have the patience to talk to them for a long time, until they started to feel better.  This is changing my life.  Try it.

MaryKate:

Last week, a co-worker was telling a group of us about her horrific time as an intern for a large company one summer in college. I laughed and commiserated with her, but I came away with a valuable idea: my co-worker only found out she didn’t like that particular industry because she experienced it. How can a person know what they like or dislike until they’ve done it? I think this is a conundrum that many college students and recent graduates face today; with tuition costs rising, there is an immense amount of pressure on students to choose a major and complete their degree in four years or less. Unfortunately, almost no one knows what they really want when they enter college; I know I didn’t. I happened to enjoy reading novels and writing, and that translates into an English degree. At least I was on the right track because I knew math and science were not for me. There are so many choices but not nearly enough time to figure out which is the best fit for you; so, with so many options out there, how do you find a major or a job that you will enjoy?

While working as a graduate assistant in the College of Education while in school, I talked with many students who switched their majors to Education and then had to stay on for extra semesters in order to finish their coursework and student teaching. I admired these students because they weren’t afraid to pursue what they really wanted, even though it took more time and money. I realize that staying in school for an extra semester or even two is not possible for many students, especially if they have a scholarship or are taking out loans. What I want students and recent grads to understand is that you don’t have to feel as though you’re under the gun while choosing a major (or a job). A friend of mine gave me excellent advice when I started my first job: “The best time to look for a job is when you already have one.” He meant that if I found this job to be unsatisfying, it doesn’t have to become my career and it doesn’t have to be all that I do. I can always look for new opportunities to expand or build on my interests and passions, and this works well for students, too.

I did so much more in school than just attending classes, reading novels, and writing papers. I took on an editing internship the summer of my sophomore year of college at a small magazine in Philadelphia and I learned so much about the entire publication process. The following spring, I contacted Karen about an internship possibility and working with her brought me out of my comfort zone (in a good way!). Though I tend to be a shy person, I accompanied Karen to various networking events and met new people. It was (and still is) a great experience working with her because I find myself learning something new about myself and others every day. During my four years of college, I became a tutor and helped everyone from freshman to seniors to write papers for their various classes. Since graduating with my Master’s, I’ve taken on different freelance editing and writing work to expand my knowledge of something I love. I’m not listing my skills and experience to let you all know how wonderful I am, but I want to illustrate a point: if I hadn’t tried different internship and volunteer opportunities, I wouldn’t have an idea of what I really want from a career. I find that it would be easy to fall into a rut at work or school but I won’t let that happen. I want to be challenged every day, not just go through the motions.

Don’t get discouraged if you are worried that you’re not doing what you love in work or school. You can make that happen. Find something that interests you and pursue it; in fact, there are endless resources in libraries, career counseling centers, and online. Take advantage of them and you will feel more fulfilled—I promise!

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Heidi: 

Why do we close read books?

This question has been haunting my English seminar class.  We are currently discussing Huck Finn in relation to this question.  After exploring the question of “who is Huck Finn?” by close reading passages from the novel, we inevitability fell into the ‘why does it matter’ conversation.  One of my classmates called it the english-major-crisis-of-faith.  Which it was.  If a symbol or connection was not intended by the author and readers pick up on it, is the reader wrong?  Does authorial intent matter?

Why should I close read Huck Finn?  My thoughts about this are simple: to understand it better.  There are always layers to a book and to a character, as there are with people.  The closer you look and more time you spend getting to know them in detail, the deeper you can understand and appreciate them.

It reminds me of how I really disliked one of my current best friends when I first met her.  Upon first interacting with her I identified her as a crazy type-A personality.  We completely clashed.  The more time I spent with her and thought about why she did the things she did, I could tell all of it came straight from her heart.  I love her now, but not when I first met her.  It was only through increased interactions with her did I see her awesomeness.

I find I have similar experiences with characters in books or books in general.  I usually don’t like them that much when I first read them.  Through discussion and consequently increased time spent thinking about them, I find I can get a better understanding of the characters or book in general.  That “better understanding” usually goes hand in hand with appreciation of the work and eventually liking it too.

If I like, appreciate, or understand a novel for reasons unintended by the author, I tend to agree with John Green—“I still win”.  If I can be a more productive member of society and benefit others from what I learned by close reading a novel, that’s great.  This scenario could play itself out in various ways, for example applying the discipline of persistence and analyzing texts closely to a job you get or learning to love a friend.  Practicing close reading is therefore akin to my definition of a good and thoughtful life.   It sows the seeds for a deeper understanding and appreciation of books and by extension other situations in your life.

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