Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 494 - Auld Lang Syne

Well, it was nice knowin' you, 2010.

Actually, this year has been a year of ups and downs.  I've accomplished a lot.  The last of three graduate school applications went out in the mail today, I faced the infamous GRE, and I got a promotion at Suite101.  I wrote over 150 articles, didn't kill anyone at my Job from Hell, lost a little weight and saved absolutely no money, and to top it off, I stared down adulthood adversity and held my own.

All in all, I think I've done rather well.

As for 2011?  I'm intrigued as to what it will bring.  Graduate school?  (Yes, please!)  An end to the Job from Hell?  Something big and shiny?  Hopefully all of that and all of the love, happiness, laughs, and life lessons that 2010 has blessed us with.

Even though I'll be spending New Year's at home with my family and some of my dad's friends (my boyfriend's grandma is in the hospital, so we'll be celebrating his birthday, Christmas, our anniversary, and New Year's all at once sometime soon,) I'll be celebrating.  After all, "for life is short but sweet for certain."

Cheers to 2010, and to having a new year filled with life, happiness, laughter and love.

-AA

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 470 - Maybe It Wasn't So Bad?

I got my "certified" scores back from the GRE, and well, I'm two for three on meeting my target scores.  Maybe I didn't do as badly as I thought I did?

I got a 5.5 out of 6 on the analytical writing section, which means I probably missed a comma somewhere in one of my essays and therefore didn't have "perfect grammar."  But hey, at least I don't look like a total mental midget on paper!

Maybe I just overreacted after the test, which is a good possibility.  I am one of the first to admit that I am an overachiever, I am a perfectionist (sort of,) and I always expect 100% out of myself - even if that means beating myself up mentally and physically in order to get what I want.

The one thing that stands out, however, is that I have lost all ability to take a standardized test.  Granted, I didn't have that much of an ability in the first place.  All throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school I would get high scores on those silly "proficency tests," but they were never in proportion to my actual grade point average.  In fact, there was one year where I was getting a B+ in the most advanced math class for my grade and barely scored in the "proficient" range on the silly standardized test.

And yes, I did look that up.  Thank you, Mom, for keeping all of this stuff nice and organized.

I guess I don't have much left to do for graduate school before the anxiety-ridden wait begins.  I just have to come up with $50 for each application, $24 for transcripts, and a whole lot in postage and paper.  If I think about it, graduate school is already starting to cost a lot of money - and I haven't even been accepted yet!

-AA

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 468 - Excuse Me?

I had logged onto the Internet today and I found this article cued up in Yahoo!'s little news reel:

"Student's Loan Debt: $200,000"

Um, excuse me?  Did I just read $200,000?

Yes, I did.  The article follows Kelli Space, 23, who graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with a shiny new BA in sociology and a monthly student loan obligation of $891 a month.  Her monthly loan payments will nearly double next November, when her monthly payments are expected to increase to $1,600 a month.

At that point in the article, I wanted to pull Kelli out of my computer screen, smack her across the face, and tell her what it's like to have $1,026 in monthly student loan obligations right out of the gate.  Yeah, Kelli Space who works one full time job and set up a donation website to help her pay back her loans, suck it up.  You get a profile on Yahoo! Finance while I've taken a little over $4,300 out of my savings account in 2010 alone just to cover my student loan debts.  Beat that, says my diminishing financial reserves.  I work two full time jobs and still can barely pay my loan bills, let alone those credit card bills for things like gas to get to work that I've been paying with money out of my savings account.  I've even taken to adding Google Adsense to "The Years Spent PC" to maybe earn a little extra cash.

Yet, there's a part of me that wants to empathize with Kelli and turn around and tell the people commenting on the article calling it "liberal bullshit" and telling people that "if you can't cover the cost of attendance with gift aid and federal loans, then you shouldn't be going to such an expensive school" just what is up.  Let's review the situation I was in six years ago.

When I was a senior in high school, I applied to four schools, which shall remain anonymous.  I was denied admission to school #1, which was a private out-of-state university that would have tacked on surcharges because I was an out-of-state student. 

School #2, an arts school with a writing program, offered me a full ride package that included federal loans, but no need for private loans.  The school was in a huge metropolitan area known for publishing houses, so I could have had it all right at my finger tips.  However, I was forced to turn down said full ride because my dad was afraid I'd get mugged within the first 15 minutes of being on campus.

School #3 was a state school that fell under a tuition increase cap, meaning that it could only increase tuition at a maximum rate of 5% or so per academic year.  Despite this school being the cheapest of them all, I was awarded $1500 in financial aid, no federal loans, and was told that I'd have to make up the rest of my $15,000 balance for my freshman year in private loans.

School #4 was a private liberal arts school that later became my alma mater, offering me what started out to be 50% of the cost of attendance in financial aid my freshman year, with that same amount being a little more than a third of the cost by my senior year.

See the problem here, folks?

Yes, students should exercise caution when borrowing money for school.  For some, starting at a community college in a non-terminal associates program and then transferring to a four year college or university is a great option (until you get to the four year school and realize you need to retake classes.)  For another bunch, simply earning a professional certificate or an associate's degree is enough to get them into their field.

However, I take issue with people who believe that those who are studying anything besides business, engineering, or "high profile" majors should not be in college.  What about those who graduate with teaching degrees?  Every culture needs teachers, and in ours you have to go to college and earn your license to be a teacher - it's a fact of life.  What about our nurses (medicine is considered "high profile")?  What about our radio jockeys, journalists, politicians, hospitality managers, interior decorators, and artists?

Hell, what about our writers?  You can't turn around in this world without being influenced by a writer.  Should all of us who have aspirations beyond six figures and fancy business cards be excluded from a college education because the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, and education don't necessarily pay as well as business degrees?

It all boils down to this.  Unless you're shouldering a mountain of student loan debt, take a look around before telling us who should and should not attend college.  What we need instead of segregating our society into the educationally-entitled and the educationally-unentitled based on our future plans is some reform.  Cap tuition costs, provide more aid, cap the maximum interest rate on student loans, extend repayment terms, something.

Because as I'm contemplating temporarily changing my repayment plan on my federal loans, any ounce of reform is better than nothing at all.

-AA 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 463 - All Good Things Must Come to An End

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month.  For me, it's the end of round two of the challenge to write 50,000 words in the thirty days of November.

Last year, I tore through the challenge like it was nothing.  Granted, I had and still have a number of unfinished creative writing projects, and Suite101 was in the midst of a thirty articles in thirty days challenge that I was also taking part in.  Including creative projects, work, and "The Years Spent PC," I had plenty of words to clear the 50K mark and print out my snazzy certificate, get my purple 2009 button for my National Novel Writing Month writer profile, and collect all of my goodies and bragging rights.

This year, my sorority little sister and I both decided to participate.  After all, I had "won" last year with three days left in the month, so this year should be cake since I had already done the challenge once.  Right?

Well, it's 6:50 P.M. EST, and I am exactly 8,000 words short of the golden 50K.

Yup, that's right, I don't think I'm going to slay this beast, folks.

I thought about ways I could win.  I thought about going through my Twitter feed and copying all of my tweets for the month - after all, I had written every one of those words.  I thought about all of the emails I had sent, the GRE essays I had written, and all of the extraneous words that I had penned throughout the past thirty days simply doing what I do every day.  I even thought about calling off from the Job from Hell today to see if I could pull what was a total of 11,500 out of my butt before 11:59 tonight, but I realized that I would more than likely sleep in and lounge on the couch watching TLC all morning, eat lunch, and then find something else to occupy my time all afternoon until I realized the real reason I needed the day to myself.

Needless to say, I went to work today.

But then again, I've looked at everything I have done throughout the month and realized that, even though I won't get the cool little certificate to hang on my wall next to the one from last year, I have completed a challenge.  I have written over 42,000 words (the word counter always adds words for some reason) on top of working 40 hours a week, studying for the biggest test of my life, and taking the GRE on top of it all.  In addition, I've been writing for Suite101 and finishing up graduate school applications.

In my book, that's an accomplishment.

So, even though I won't be posting my little winner graphic on my blog this year and I won't have a certificate to hang up, I think that I have risen above quite a challenge during this round of National Novel Writing Month.  Next year, though, all of those words had better watch out.

Even though I know I didn't reach the goal, here's to hoping that my little comes up with 16,000 words by midnight.  If anyone can, she can.

-AA

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 460 - Gettin' A Little Crazy

I'm just going to preface this by saying that Black Friday is a tradition in my family.  My mom, my sisters and I go out every year, do a little shopping in the early morning hours, eat lunch, and come home and crash.

But this year, my sister Erin and I did something completely silly, just for $hits and giggles.

Midnight Madness, anyone?

You see, the local outlet mall holds Midnight Madness every Thanksgiving / Black Friday, where all of the stores and the food court all open at midnight.  They offer all kinds of deals and make a big fuss over it because everybody - well, until this year, except us - goes to the Aurora outlets for Midnight Madness.  This year, since the economy has been bad and people around here don't have any money, stores were practically giving things away this year, with some stores opening at ten or eleven instead of waiting until the magic hour to unlock their doors.

So, out of curiosity, Erin and I went to Midnight Madness.  However, we decided, or rather Erin decided and I agreed, that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it up right.  We decided that we were going to be the first in line at the COACH outlet when they opened at eleven.  Why?  Because out of all of the stores in the three outlet sub-malls, COACH was by far our favorite and the store that everyone and their brother and sister were going to be waiting at.

We left our house at seven on Thursday evening.  Yes, I said seven in the evening.

Erin and I got to the outlet mall around 7:30 and found a prime parking spot.  In reality, any parking spot at the Farms sub-outlet is prime parking because, well, there aren't many parking spots to begin with.  To our dismay, there were already about twenty people in line already!  Did these people bring Thanksgiving dinner in a crock pot or did they just leave the dirty dishes on the table and run?

Disappointed, Erin and I got in line, pulled out our Blackberries, and prepared to stand in line for the next three and a half hours. 

We weren't even sure if we were going to buy anything.  Heck, we were both broke.  But we had heard friends, coworkers, and sorority sisters go on about Midnight Madness for years, and if Erin and I spent summers of our tween years standing in line for hours in the blistering summer sun waiting to get the newest Beanie Babies on the day they were released, we could handle three and a half hours of standing under an awning and watching the ran pour down on the poor souls who didn't leave the house until after eight.  Piece of cake!

Midnight Madness was fun, but it was more for our bonding time than to actually go shopping.  We stood behind a pilgrim woman at COACH for three and a half hours, watched as an Asian international student tried to cut in line and then proceeded to pick a fight with the woman in line behind us, set foot in the Osh Kosh Bgosh store to say hi to a friend and then ran away, and laughed as Erin blindly jumped into a massive puddle as we were running through the rain back to my car at one in the morning.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of the pilgrim woman, whose family traditionally dresses up as pilgrims and Native Americans for their Thanksgiving get together.  She also said that she had gone to the movies in the outfit before arriving at the store.  Strange!

After Erin and I drove around Ravenna looking for some place that was serving food (and couldn't find any, ) we got home around two.  I started to panic because I couldn't find my cell phone, ransacked my car and found my phone under the passenger's seat, and went to bed.  We were pooped.

Then we got up at six and went out shopping again.  By the time lunch came around, I was so hungry and had such low blood sugar that I couldn't text anyone because my hands were shaking so bad.  Hey, the last time I had eaten anything substantial was for Thanksgiving dinner!

All in all, I had fun.  I didn't spend too much (thankfully, because another round of student loan payments are coming up) and I got to spend time with my family, which almost always makes me feel better.

-AA

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 457 - Thanksgiving Eve

The pies are made, Theodore the Thanksgiving Turkey is thawing in the sink, and both of my sisters are starting Thanksgiving break today.

A lot of things have happened since last Thanksgiving.  Heck, a lot of things have happened this year in general that I am thankful for.  Some are little things, some are big things, but being thankful for a certain aspect of our lives doesn't mean that it has to be a certain size or shape or color or phase of matter.  After all, most of the things I'm thankful for are things that aren't meant to be materialized, but it's important to remember that they are given life by the people, events, and lessons around me.

Life.  I know, it may seem kind of silly to be thankful to be alive, but there have been a couple of times this year where being alive wasn't necessarily a given.  Getting in a car accident was a big one, and every time I drive by that place I still hear everyone who told me that I honestly could have - and if I would have been going any faster probably would have - died that morning, I hold my breath.

It really hits home when I think about the brushes with death that have happened this month in the lives of my friends.  One of my sorority sisters had an emergency liver transplant earlier this month, and thankfully she got the needed transplant (named Pedro) just in time as all of my sisters and I, regardless of where we were at the time, cried because we were so happy that everything came through.

Then, on Veterans Day, one of my classmates from college was killed in a car accident.  He was 24, completely sober, and simply driving home from work when he went left of center and lost control of his car.

Without life, there would be no reason to be thankful for anything else because, well, it's not like I'd be able to be thankful for anything.

Family.  No matter how much my dad annoys me with his attempts at trying to find me "real jobs," and no matter how much my sisters argue, and no matter how many times my mom forces me to be slightly more realistic, my family has been there with me through thick and thin.  Without them, I'd probably be committed to a mental institution somewhere.

My family doesn't just include my biological family, though.  Some of the most important people in my life, my sorority sisters and my closest friends, are included in my family.  They may not be related by blood or by legal documents, but they are some of the most beautiful people I have ever been graced to know.  They have become my shoulders to cry on, my cheerleaders, my reality checks when I'm thinking like a crazy, and a part of my family that I simply cannot put a price on.

All of the random material things. Even though stuff is stupid and most of my stuff is still in disarray from not cleaning my room since registering for the GRE, I can be thankful that I have warm clothes in the winter and breezy clothes in the summer, that I have a bed to sleep in at night, and shoes to wear on my feet.  I have a car that's a little worse for wear (and possibly may need new brake pads) but it's better than nothing at all, and for that I am grateful.

Love.  Love - the ultimate thing I am thankful for.  I've done a lot of things that could push people away.  I suck at answering or returning phone calls.  I don't go out that much.  I've spent too much time working my short life away and sometimes have neglected the people I love.  Through all of my young stupidity, though, my family, friends, and boyfriend have stayed by my side and loved me all the way, even when I screw up and finally cry out that I need help.

It's love that makes me feel snuggly warm when I'm at home with my family.  It's love that binds me to my friends and my sisters.  It's love that still brings butterflys to my stomach when I even think of my boyfriend and it's the same love that makes me want to spend my life with him.  Love may hurt, love may make me scream in frustration, but love ultimately is the reason as to why we're here, and for some, it's love that keeps us perfectly balanced in our current state.  Even the Bible says, "Love goes on forever."

I have a lot to be thankful for this year.  It may not seem like I've had it easy, and I know that I've had my rough spots, but I've learned a lot about myself this year and I've grown in ways that would not have been possible had I been forced to live paycheck to paycheck, had I hit a deer with my car, or had I been forced to reevaluate where I want to go in life.

So tomorrow, as I sit down with my family to chow down on Theodore the Thanksgiving Turkey, I know that I have been truly blessed this year.  Hopefully, I'll continue to be blessed for many more years to come - and that is something to be thankful for.

-AA

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 456 - Suck It Up, Farm Girl!

I've heard that saying for years when I start musing about how I've screwed up on something or something hasn't gone my way.  Honestly, I don't know where it even came from - I think my sister Erin may or may not have made it one of her witty quips that she spits out once in a while - but it works.

It works for me getting over my disappointment in myself in regards to my GRE scores.  I really need to get over the "woe is me" attitude, get back to work on those applications, and show the admissions committees at my potential schools that I am awesome, even if I may not have the best test scores.

So that's what I am going to do.  After I came home from taking my test on Friday, I went straight to my Princeton Review book and looked at the percentiles for my scores which, of course, were both odd numbers.  The book only lists the percentiles for even numbered scores, which did not make my anxiety any better because I had to do more math on top of having it painfully pulled out of my brain for forty-five minutes.  I then proceeded to cry, hyperventilate, and do all other kinds of Ashley-is-having-her-version-of-a-panic-attack kinds of things without any rational reason behind it other than I thought that I had failed a test that no one can possibly fail.

I spent the whole weekend and all day yesterday trying to objectively tell people how I did on the test.  Every time I recounted that I got this score on this section and that score on that section and how I thought that I could have done a whole lot better (at least on the verbal section, maybe not the math,) my mom would chime in.  "Ashley," she would say, "you don't know that those are bad scores.  That book is old.  It's outdated.  For all you know, the testing pool could have changed and you could be in a completely different place on the scale."

Score one again for Mom.  She's right.

The truth that I clearly need to accept is that my test scores don't define me as a student or as a writer.  My scores are only a fraction of who I am academically, and while my academic abilities may not be accurately reflected in a set of standardized test scores, I can show them more in the rest of my application.  I am determined.  I am driven.  I am engaging.  I am curious and willing to learn, willing to pick apart everything and anything to find the how and why it works.

To top it off, I think I'm a very good writer - decent, at the very least.  I was going to word that in a slightly stronger tone, but I decided not to.  Sounded out of character.

I guess all that's left is to rock the rest of my application and hope for the best.  After all, all I can do is my best and the best is all I can do.

Why?  Because I am NOT taking the GRE again.  Ever.

-AA

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 453 - Boo On You!

I took the GRE yesterday.  Boy oh boy, am I glad that it's over.

AND I'm glad that the schools I am applying to do not require a minimum score on either section for admission.  According to the programs' websites, I just have to take the test - and I did just that.

I'm slightly frustrated with my results, though, frustrated enough that I'm not posting my scores online for the world to see.  I can only handle so much public humiliation in one go, and coming home and literally breaking down into near hysterics yesterday afternoon was more than enough for now. 

I will, however, share a few things about my GRE experience:

1.  My math score was higher than my verbal score by a lot.  By "a lot," I mean by over fifty points difference.  While I can't do calculus, I still remember everything they taught me in algebra back in eighth grade.
2.  I still stink at taking tests.  Can't I just write a paper instead?
3.  I am beginning to think that I don't know how to study.  After being an A student all through elementary, junior high, high school, and college, I finally met a foe that kicked my smarty pants @$$.  I made flashcards.  I took practice tests.  I did the practice problems in my study book.  I still (in my overanalyzer and overachiever opinion) bombed the test.  Maybe this smart cookie doesn't know how to study properly?
4.  Don't waste money on test prep materials.  My GRE-prep book caused me more grief than I probably should have had.  I'm contemplating burning it in our fire pit.

Maybe what that $160 test is trying to tell me is that I'm not supposed to go to grad school, but instead be doomed to a life of barely-above minimum wage jobs that make me perfectly miserable in a position that I am over qualified for.  Or maybe I'm just beating myself up over nothing, because after all, test scores are only a part of what admissions committees look at in a student.

Just a very large part.

I guess I just have to cross my fingers, make everything else in my applications rock, and hope for the best.  I really need this.  I keep saying that, but I have yet to find a way to express just how much I need out of my job from hell and into a place where I feel I can be me - complete nerd and all.

-AA

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 428 - "I Need Motivation"

So, I've been studying for the GRE.

Here's the shocking word in that previous sentence: studying.

You see, I graduated ninth out of 115 in my high school class and never studied for tests or quizzes.  In college, I graduated with a 3.45 GPA and the thought of studying for exams was unheard of.  Granted, for a while I forgot what it was even like to take an exam because I didn't have them.  Thank you, Food and Culture class, for reminding me what an exam is.

Back to the GRE.  Everyone I know who is/will be taking the GRE has been studying their butts off, and I was the one who waited to even register for the test.  The day after I registered, I went out and bought the review book published by The Princeton Review.  I planned on reading it, doing the practice problems, taking the online tests, and generally forcing my non-studying self to study for a test that I paid $160 to take.

Here's what I've learned thus far:

1.  The GRE is not a test of an individual's intelligence.  It is a test of how well you can take a standardized test.  (In that case, well, this could get interesting...)
2.  This test is going to be the longest test I have taken in my life, beating out the cumulative amount of time spent on my 5 attempts to get my driver's license.  Don't judge me!
3.  I've learned how to do analogies (which I knew from the PSAT,) antonyms, and sentence completions (aka fill in the blank or blanks.)  Actually, the book basically told me how to guess intelligently, since the test is timed and wrong answers do count against you.
4.  I paid $160 for the priviledge of being a guinea pig for future GRE tests.  You see, the test repeats either the math or verbal section of the test when you take it, and one of the repeated sections is a research section while the other is actually scored.  Here's the beef - they don't tell you which one is the research section and which one is scored.  Probably to avoid what happened with the Ohio Graduation Class when they told us our freshman year of high school that we were the beta testers to set standards - and half the class answered "C" for every question on the test.

I guess this means that I'm back to studying.  Tonight's chapter: reading comprehension.  So far, I've learned that the secret to this section is to not read the whole sample, but to go straight to the questions about the passage.

Uuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhh....

-AA

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 426 - "Where Have You Been?!"

Before this post really gets rolling, I want to explain what is going on.  I've had a highly unusual week, and last night I needed a laugh or two.  One of my fellow Suite101 writers had posted this blog she had found called Cake Wreckers, and as my sisters and I gathered around Erin's MacBook to literally laugh until we cried and gripped our sides, I noticed that their blog of pictures and witty sarcastic commentary could be a fun experiment.  Definitely need to check out these guys - they are hilarious.  The End.

So, to explain where I've been this week, here is my week in revue - complete with pictures and very bad Microsoft Paint artwork!

Back, in a land known as October 17, 2010, our story begins...

My mom left for Grandma's house to spend the week with her because Aunt Judy and Uncle Mike are selling their house in North Canton and officially moving in to take care of Grandma.

"I don't know how we'll escape an attack from the Octopus Sun, Grandma!"
"Well, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"


Mommy was staying the whole week, which meant that I was left with Daddy and his cowboy movies that he watches obsessively, and Katie with a butt-load of language arts homework that was never explained to her at school so I had to teach her eighth grade grammar.  Round 'em up, little doggies!  Them linkin' and action verbs are a gonna escape if we don do sumthin'!

Monday evening rolls around, and this is where all of the fun really gets going.  You see, this is our computer.  Well, it's the most least relevant part of it, because the part that really pissed me off is now destroyed on my dad's workbench.  He got a little curious.

When I was attempting to play on Facebook Monday evening, the monitor went caput.  We bought our monitor when flat screen monitors first came out, so the thing was at least 5 years old and had been flickering in and out on us for a couple of weeks, but always came back on.  RIP, power cord that was older than the old monitor.  Well, maybe.


Blardy Blardy Blar, don't we look so sweet and innocent?  Well, except for the FAN OF DOOM!


After I got off work on Tuesday morning, I went to Grandma's to explain what was going on.  That's when I talked Mommy into $13 in mostly gold dollar coins and quarters to buy a new power cord for the monitor.  I was broke as a joke so there was no way that I was paying for it.

I installed the Power Cord of Wonder, went to turn on the monitor and...nothing.

Still freakin' dead.


It's the amazing Harry Potter lightning bolt power cord OF FAILURE!!!!!
 So my dad, who is going through withdraw because he can't get on Facebook or check his email or watch obscure guitar players on YouTube, tells me that I need to find a laptop to hook up downstairs until we can get a new monitor.  Actually, I'm thinking that he was hoping for a Mac, but fat chance dude, you're only getting a monitor.

Wednesday.  Katie had gotten Erin's old Dell from Hell out of the closet and we decided that it was going to be our next victim.  My parents had bought Erin the Dell from Hell for her freshman year of college, and when it caught a virus and the computer started talking to her, well, it got stashed in the closet.  Erin transferred colleges and bought her Mac at the Kent State bookstore.

Not only will I talk to you in the middle of the night in low, freakishly creepy tones, but I will also slam my devilish lid on Ashley's toes!

The Dell from Hell worked just fine until I put it away a couple of hours ago.  Thank goodness it didn't do any random talking to me, or I would have thrown it across the room.

On Thursday, I had to work until one in the afternoon, and when I went to check my text messages I noticed that they stopped at 7:30 A.M.  That's highly unusual, because between Twitter and friends, I always have text messages.  My phone vibrates constantly.

Guess what?  Mommy hadn't paid the cell phone bill yet, and AT&T graciously reminded us about it by turning off our cell phone service.  Oh, just what I always wanted!


Not only am I useless AND angry, but I'll also set your printer and iPod dock on FIRE!!!!!!!

My dad pestered me all day Friday about when the monitor was going to come.  In the short two hours that he was home and awake yesterday afternoon, I went from the happy Ashley in my profile picture to something a little horrible looking.


AARRRRRRRRRRRGH!

Today.  Sweet, sweet Saturday.  The monitor was supposed to arrive, and after bickering with my dad about proof of delivery options for the stupid thing, I stayed home and piddled around looking for a birthday present for my boyfriend (whose birthday was yesterday, but since I didn't get paid until this morning I had a whole lot of no money for anything besides a bouncy ball out of one of those quarter machines at the grocery store.)  The FedEx man delivered the monitor with a cheery "I bet you've been waiting for this."

No. Kidding.  Dude.

So, here it is, our blessed new 20", wide screen, energy efficient $100 special Dell monitor, complete with my sister Katie:


In the name of all things holy, THANK YOU FEDEX MAN!

Granted, I almost killed my mom's Christmas cactus in the corner when I tried to set it up, and almost called Dell tech support before realizing that I hadn't pushed the power cord in all of the way, but it's alive.  If I could figure out how to cue the Hallelujah Chorus at this point in the blog, I would.

Now, if only my cell phone service would kick back on.  Everyone else's service is back on except for mine.

-AA









Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 419 - "Just Trust Us On This One"

I found an old issue of Cosmopolitan magazine today when I was cleaning up a few things in my bedroom and started flipping through it.  The article that caught my eye?  "Why You Shouldn't Hate Your First Job."

The article was written by someone who had gone to college, worked hard to get good grades, and had had an entry-level job that completely broke the I'm-starting-my-career bubble.  I wish I could find the article online, but that copy of the magazine was a couple of months old.  I'll keep looking, though.

The whole premise was that we young college grads shouldn't hate our first jobs right out of college because they are meant to be learning experiences, those "earning your street cred" type jobs that sometimes aren't anything more than a glorified internship with a salary.

Here's my counter argument to this article.  Don't get me wrong, I love my writing job, but it's that truly first job, the one I've been stuck at since high school and would probably quit in a heart beat, that has really had me grinding my teeth this past week.

Here it is - my top five reasons of "Why You Should Hate Your First Job."

5.  Given today's economy, it is just as likely for someone with, say, an education degree to be working at the local coffee shop as the local elementary school.  Just because it's a job doesn't necessarily validate all of those all-nighters we had, exams we crammed for, field hours we logged, and that crazy get up we wore at graduation.

4.  Student loans.  Not all post-college jobs are created equal.  Some will pay for loan payments, rent, and all of those other big kid expenses that tend to pile up.  Others will leave you wondering if you will have the money to put gas in your car to drive the six miles to an aggravatingly annoying job that you're more than overqualified for come Monday morning - and you haven't driven your car all weekend because of it.

3.  The Job Shuffle.  Like I talked about in my post on Day 365, we twenty-somethings change jobs a lot before we turn 30.  There's always the first job, but then we have the second first job, the third first job, the random gig in retail in between first jobs, and then there's THE first job that we may or may not stick with when we settle down, start families, or suddenly decide to go to graduate school and become GAs or TAs and get paid the same sized salary as our first first job.

2.  Relevance.  Like in reason five, more and more first jobs are completely irrelevant when compared to our degrees.  I have no desire whatsoever to pursue a career in training people how to make sandwiches and use crappy cash registers - or to deal with the drama of people who can't get over the fact that they screwed up and got in trouble for it.  Sorry for the tangent.

1.  Fulfillment.  I don't know about many other people my age, but I want to feel at least some sense of satisfaction with my first job.  I am not one of those people to have or do something just for the sake of having it; I want to know that I am doing something that I love and that I can share that love of what I'm doing with other people.  First jobs, or second first jobs or even third first jobs, don't always provide that - it's that "earn your street cred" mentality that sometimes leaves the college graduate making copies and the intern sitting in on important meetings.

Maybe I'm just slightly jaded, or maybe I've just had a bad week.  I can understand why you shouldn't hate your first job, but there are also plenty of reasons why you should.  That's why we twenty-somethings change jobs so many times, possibly?

-AA

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 403 - "Take One Step Forward"

I just registered for the GRE.  After saving for a couple of months, I'm hopefully one step closer to getting into graduate school.

November 19, 2010, is the big day - GRE day!

I've already taken the day off from work since my test is scheduled at 12:30, I'm looking for test prep materials, and I'm excited and a little bit nervous.  I know that, with a little brushing up, I'll be fine when it comes to the verbal reasoning and the writing sections, it's the quantitative reasoning (math) section that worries me.  I haven't had a math class in 4 1/2 years, and even then I wimped out and took the easiest math class possible.  It's not that I stink at math - on the contrary, I can be really good at it when I want to be - but the fact that I haven't had math in such a long time that worries me.

By the way, if anyone knows of free GRE prep resources, especially online, send them my way please!

I just keep telling myself that I need to take baby steps.  First step, register for GRE.  Next step: finish those applications.

One step forward.  Hopefully I won't have to worry about any steps backwards.

-AA

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 396 - "A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down"

What an appropriate day to share this. 

I have a killer cold.  Headache, stuffy nose, fatigue - if it's an ailment from the collar bone up, it's wreaking havoc on me and my usual good mood.

However, I, along with millions of uninsured 18 to 26 year olds across the United States, have to be carried on our parents' health insurance again as of today.  Those of us who are employed but don't receive insurance as a job benefit?  We can go see the doctor again.  All of the college students who aren't carried on insurance policies besides those offered by the college or university?  Well, they no longer have to worry about falling down steps and spraining an ankle. 

Great day to come down with a cold, right?

Granted, I still have to re-enroll with the insurance company and my dad has to get the paperwork from his boss (who is in a similar situation) and I have to wait until the enrollment period begins at the first of the year, but it gives me peace of mind that I will have health insurance that is actually worth something shortly.  We no longer have to live vicariously with the threat of thousands of dollars of medical bills if we get hurt and we don't carry health insurance.  We no longer have to suffer without flu shots, regular check ups, and emergency room visits when we get in car accidents.

For me?  It means that I can go to the doctor and get medicine that actually works when I have a cold instead of going through box after box of over the counter cold medicine that may or may not work.  It also means that I can have this bump on my shoulder, which I'm pretty sure is a bug bite gone wrong, looked at and hopefully removed.

But more importantly, I don't have to worry about getting seriously hurt in a car accident and not having insurance to cover the medical expenses.  I'll no longer have to worry if I get hurt at work or in the yard and stay at home to nurse myself back to health because I can't afford the costs of emergency care.  My mind, and my health, is now at ease knowing that I can actually now afford to see the doctor if I need to - once I find a doctor, that is.

Needless to say, knowing that someone has my back (for the cost of a co-pay) makes me feel much better than this generic Sudafed does.

-AA

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 379 - "Bad Boys, What You Gonna Do When They Come for You?"

Why, hello again.

I've spent my entire holiday weekend busting plagarizers - how was yours?

Anyway, another writer at Suite101discovered a site called youreader.com, which was taking articles and copyrighted work from other websites, reframing them on their website, and altering the Google Adsense code so that they got the profit from ad clicks instead of the people who, oh you know, actually host the material and own the copyrights.

I'm just steamed.  I never really had to deal with this before I became a feature writer, and in less than two months I've had two cases of plagarism.  Granted, it's the risk I take by putting my work into the public domain for anyone and everyone to see, but don't people respect copyrights anymore?  What happened to creating original work and competing with one another to be the best?  Writing market fundamentals, anyone? 

Buehler?  Buehler?  Buehler? 

After all of this emailing unknown web hosts who don't wish to be found, filing DMCA complaints with Google, and hoping that lightning hits these people, I could use a good glass of wine.  Or a very stiff drink and a good long nap. 

Dante should've created a separate circle of hell for those who infringe on someone else's copyrights and make them suffer with eternal paper cuts or carpal tunnel syndrome, depending upon how they stole the material.

-AA

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 365 - "History in the Making"

Today "The Year Spent PC" now becomes "The Years Spent PC."  Happy birthday to my little blogging adventure!

Ironically, I came across this article from The New York Times today (actually, I found it on Facebook and a friend found it in the NYT) that seems fitting for the occasion of my blog's birthday.  The article?  "What Is It About 20-Somethings?"

It goes on to talk about the concept of a new developmental stage in life, at a point in life that I am smack dab in the middle of.  We're talking the 20s, the years that are supposed to be some of the best of your life.

Instead, we 20-somethings are moving back home at least once during this decade of our life, or at least forty percent of us do.  On average, we will change jobs seven times and change addresses about once a year.  We will put off getting married to an age later in life than any generation before us, live with our significant others without being married, and take unpaid internships and service opportunities within the United States and abroad for little to no paycheck at all.

Some may say that we're putting off "becoming adults."  Others may say that we're slackers, or that we think we're entitled to everything that the previous generation worked hard to attain - and more.  Or some may sit back on their heels and call us lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to accept responsibility.

I beg to differ.  Some of my closest friends are currently juggling jobs, spouses and the anticipated arrival of children, graduate school, and all of those "benchmarks" we're supposed to meet in order to be socially acceptable by the time we've turned 30.  While I am still trying to get into graduate school and I'm working two jobs - not by choice, but instead because I have financial responsibilities to fulfill - and I don't plan on getting married within the next week (or month...or year...unless someone knows something I don't know,) I can see the concept of "emerging adulthood."  But then again, I've always ran with the over achiever crowd, the up and comings, but I still see it in bits and pieces of my friend's and my's lives.  I actually sat and read all ten pages of the article and could identify with what was being said, all the while wondering just how much space this piece took up in print.

We aren't intentionally putting off adulthood.  Almost all of my friends from college lived on our own in dorms paid for by tuition that we took student loans out in our own names in order to pay for our communal living style.  From day one of college, we paid for our books and tuition and entertainment; we even scraped and saved to buy our own clothes and sorority and fraternity dues.  We shouldered our responsibilities and did what we had to to get to the next step in our lives - "emerging adulthood," somewhere between being completely dependent and completely independent that can be misinterpreted in so many different ways.

But there is one thing I can identify with.  It's the concept of a new adventure into self-discovery and identity formation.  I've learned a lot this past year that I've spent PC.  I've had to grow a tougher skin when facing rejection, learn that dreams are great but the road to achieving them may change at moment's notice, and that sometimes you have to learn to say good bye before you may be ready to let go.  I've learned to stand up for myself and my writing in ways that I never had to face in college writing workshops, to dig deeper within myself to find strength, and that sometimes happily forever afters don't always last forever, but they will ever leave an impact on those around when the Glinda the Good Witch bubble pops. 

So, instead of this being a final good bye, let this be a chance to raise a glass - or can, mug, cup, or bottle - to the prospect of self discovery and emerging adulthood.  After all, you're only a 20-something once, and we all have to make the most of those ten years while they're here.

Because who knows who you may find there; just possibly, you might find your self.

-AA

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 361 - What Am I Going to Do?

I just realized this about two minutes ago.

There are four days, after today, until "The Year Spent PC" ticks over to year two.

I guess I have some decisions to make.  Big, big decisions.  Hhhhmmmmmm...

-AA

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 354 - Chance of a Lifetime?!

Penguin Books announced that it is accepting unsolicited work for editorial review from August 1, 2010, until October 31, 2010.  NO FREAKIN' WAY!!!!!!

All that is need to submit a proposal is a brief cover letter and a brief synopsis.  That's it. 

Was this meant to fall into my lap?  Am I crazy to think that a 23-year-old college graduate from small Farmville, Ohio, could get published by one of the oldest and most respected book publishing houses there is?

If I am crazy, then this may be my committing moment. 

I'm going for it.  Time to pull out my work and (hopefully) let it shine.

-AA

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 346 - Update on Grandma

It's been kind of crazy lately, but Grandma made it.  After they took her to the emergency room (which is why the last post ended as abruptly as it did) they continued to give Grandma glucose treatments and got her blood sugar up to a safe reading. 

Then, around 1:15 in the morning, the hospital called to tell my mom that Grandma was fine and that there was no reason to admit her.  My aunt and mom brought Grandma home, and needless to say my mom, sister, and I took Friday off work because we were thinking the ending was going to be a lot worse than it was.

-AA

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 341 - "Bury Me in Satin, Lay Me Down on a Bed of Roses..."

I really should be in bed right now.  I (tentatively) have to be at work in six hours and 46 minutes from the time I typed this sentence.

But Mommy is next door at Grandma's.  So is an ambulance, which is never good.  Especially when Grandma is 81 years old and a brittle diabetic who is developing an insulance tolerance.

So, I'm sitting in my dining room, watching the lights bounce around on the ambulance, and waiting for the phone to ring.  I can't sleep because I'm afraid that, the moment I go to bed, something is going to go dreadfully wrong.

Let's rewind.  My mind is racing, so I may be a little scatterbrained with my thoughts.

Grandma's fasting blood sugars, which are the ones taken when she wakes up in the morning, have been getting lower and lower the past couple of days.  This morning's was 49, despite my aunt trying to bring up her sugar with fruit and sweets and stuff. 

Grandma was supposed to go see the doctor today, but because her sugar was so low and she (obviously) felt out of sorts, my aunt cancelled the appointment and rescheduled - I think.  No one filled me in on that part.  I went out to dinner with one of my sorority sisters this evening, and my mom had made bacon for BLT sandwiches for dinner.  My aunt and grandma both said that bacon sounded good and Mommy had the intention of taking some down after dinner because there was plenty to go around. 

When I got home from my dinner date around 8:10 p.m, my mom's car was at my grandma's house, which is unusual for this time of night.  I asked my dad what was going on, and he said, "Aunt Judy called up here a while ago all upset.  It sounds like your grandma's having some trouble."

Way to be specific, Daddy.  Trouble could mean anything from not being able to find her crossword puzzle book to scenarios on into oblivion.  I went upstairs, talked to my sisters, changed into pajamas, and went back downstairs. 

Between 8:45 and 8:50, the phone rang.  I started to panic because it was obvious that Mommy had been down there for a while, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.  Grandma's Lifeline service was calling, looking for my mom because she's an emergency contact.  Lifeline, for those who are looking confused, is one of those services for senior citizens in case they have an emergency and need help.  Someone tripped the button to call for an ambulance, and ten minutes later, we hear sirens.

I live in an area with several elderly couples, with one older man around the corner who has terminal cancer.  Ambulances come and go, but when they shut off the sirens as they passed my driveway, I started to shake and I haven't stopped since.  They're still there with the lights on.

Apparently Grandma's blood sugar dropped really low and she started to have trouble breathing.  When she started having trouble breating, they called the ambulance.  The EMTs are still down there giving her glucose and oxygen.  My mom says that she's struggling, but she's hanging in there.  Grandma is as stubborn as the rest of us.

I'm scared to go to bed.  I'm scared to get startled awake by my mom telling me that Grandma's gone.  Grandma has always been next door; I've gone 23 1/2 years of knowing nothing but Grandma being next door, opening the curtains to the sliding glass door in the kitchen so that she can look up the road at our house.  Or making iced tea with lemon, two packs of pink sweetner and one pack of blue.  Or the way she always had stories about growing up in Johnstown.  Or the way she would tell me about Shirley Temple back in her prime when she was a little kid.  Grandma's the only grandparent I have left and, well, the thought of letting go gathers those tears in the back of my throat that are all phlemy and make it hard to breathe.

Just pray.  If nothing else, just pray

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 338 - (Cue the Sound of Cash Registers)

I got the estimate done on my car to see how much the damage from my little run-in with the deer was going to cost.

The grand total?  About $1,600.  Give or take some if they're able to find gently used parts instead of ordering new ones.

The bad part is that my car insurance has a $500 deductible.  The even worse part is that I don't have $500 to pay the deductible.

I guess my little road warrior is going to have to wait to get fixed.  Let's just hope that I don't get pulled over by a cop for my front right turn signal being out.  I don't have the money for a traffic ticket either.

-AA

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 327 - "Ding Dong the Bells Are Gonna Chime!"

Good news - I'm now the Colleges Feature Writer at Suite101.com!  Woohoo!

I'm excited for this - it is going to rock and roll like the 1950s.  Just give me a couple of days, and then check me out!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 326 - "Dear Deer"

Dear Miss Deer (at least, I think you were a Miss,)

I want to apologize for hitting you at 3:45 this morning.  I do not have a vendetta against animals of any shape or size, but I must stress the importance of looking both ways before trying to cross the road.  Sometimes, the things that hurt you the most are right beside you.

Literally.

I just wanted to let you know that I really didn't mean to hit you; however, when you appear out of nowhere and we collide, it's going to hurt.  I know that I'm not physically hurt and that you, unfortunately, didn't make it home today, but maybe you should've paid better attention to Mama Bambi.

In closing, I am glad that some combination of physics and free will helped you find your final spot in the grass on the side of the road and not in the middle of it.  I hope you are running in greener pastures somewhere in the sky where little black Dodge Neons can't hurt you anymore.  I am sorry, teenager-sized Miss Deer.

Ashley

P.S.  If you see that cat I hit a couple of weeks ago, please spread the message.  Look both ways before crossing the road!

                                           *   *   *

If you hadn't figured it out, I hit my first animal bigger than a house cat on my way to work this morning.  Of course, what did I hit?

A deer. 

A teenager-sized, running out of a cornfield along side of my car and then deciding to cross the road as she's in my blind spot deer.

Here's what happened.  I'm driving down the road at the perfectly legal speed of 45 miles per hour, when I see something at the very edge of my windshield.  In the literal split second that it took me to hit the brakes, the deer hit my car at the headlight region on the front passenger's side, slowly folded on my car, and slid back off.  At this point, I was straddling the center line and sitting at a bad point on a tiny hill, so I kick it into reverse and got back into my lane.  Threw on the hazard lights and started to cry.

Did I mention that this was the first time I was the driver in any kind of major car accident?

Don't worry, I didn't suffer any injuries.  After everything stopped, I dug out my phone and called work to tell them that I was (obviously) going to be a little late because I yet again clashed with a child of Mother Nature.  My boss, after asking if I was alright (yes) and if the deer was alright (no, it's dead,) was very understanding.

When I finally got to work, I was so upset that I almost threw up.  It didn't help that the State Highway Patrol was setting up a speed trap on my way to work and it was kind of obvious that I had hit something with my car.  But I was closer to work than I was home, so off my little wounded road warrior and I trucked.

For those of you who have hit deers, you know what they can do to cars, especially lunchbox-on-wheels cars like mine.  Broken windshields, crushed front ends, almost folded in half doors, the works.  I don't know who was looking out for me this morning, but thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

The damage report: a crack in my passenger-side headlight cover, a two-inch square missing piece of my headlight cover, a dent in the corner of the hood by the headlight, and a whole lot of muddy debris.

Pardon my French, but I was one lucky little shit.

My dad hasn't seen the car yet and we're waiting to call the insurance company until he has a look at it to see whether or not it's worth filing a claim with our deductible.  Either way, my somewhat unbreakable little road warrior is going to have to see the medic, because that dent needs to come out and I need a new headlight cover.

-AA

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 325 - "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions"

I've been researching schools for my MA/MFA in creative writing.  I've found that I'm going to have to branch out and travel, but that's okay.  Maybe I'll buck up and learn to cook and actually keep a clean living structure.

I'm working on the tidiness thing, though.

So far, my top choices are Ohio University and the University of Cinncinati.  There is an NEOMFA program closer to my house, but it's offered as a consortium program from five or six different colleges and universities throughout Northeast Ohio.  I'm not sure that I would like that; it doesn't lend to the "graduate school" experience when you could consider yourself to be attending six different schools all at once.

Next I'm going to start looking at schools around the Ohio area.  I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for the out-of-state jump yet, mostly because of the cost.

We shall see.  We shall see.

-AA

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 324 - "I'm the World's Greatest"

Take a deep breath.  Hold it in for a moment to savor the oxygen high.

Release.

I'm making a big decision.  I have yet to figure out if people in my life are going to accept it and support me in my decision, but I feel that, after some soul searching, that I've been false to myself this past year.

I'm done with applying for higher education administration.  Not with applying to grad school in general, but for that specific career track.  As much as I would love to delve into that profession head on, I don't feel that my heart and soul would be in it for the rest of my working life.

Why the change, you ask?  I sat back and thought about it.  While it would be nice to possibly have my future children's college educations paid for because I would be a school employee, I would want to be able to be there for my family.  Granted, conferences and research and 12-14 hour days mentoring, working, and advising aren't a requirement, but it leads to those who truly care about the field and the students in it. 

It's not that I don't care about other people; it's just the opposite.  I do care about other people.  I could never go into a profession where the people come last and business and making money come first.  But keep in mind that I was raised in a house where my mom called off every time one of my sisters or I was sick.  Both parents were at every hotstove softball game where I sat the bench seven out of nine innings, every band competition, every track meet where I came in last place or somewhere close to it.  My parents were there because they arranged - or in my mom's case, gave up - their plans for their careers so that they could be there for us.

And, if in the future I do have children, I want to be the same way.  I want to be able to be there for my kids, if they exist in the future.

So I've simply changed my mind.  I'm going for my MA or MFA in creative writing and then on to become Dr. Ashley Whatever-My-Last-Name-Is-At-That-Time, PhD. 

I think it goes back to something like this that I saw during a band movie night when I was in high school:




Yup, it's Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.  Best. Movie. Ever.

After I saw that, I wanted to be an English teacher.  I wanted to show students the hidden treasure in literature, the tiring but worthwhile self-discovery in writing, the beauty that comes from the human voice uninhibited colliding with paper and space and tangibility.  Somewhere, though, I lost that.  I lost the desire to uncover the great treasures hidden in dusty tomes, to hide my treasures on shelves of some distant library, to "sound my barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world."

I had a high school English teacher that made us YAWP.  She always spelled it in all capital letters because she said that YAWP was not a word to be spoken softly or meekly.  It was meant to be shouted, to be screamed - to unleash the primal being in all of us!  She made us stand on desks and YAWP at the tops of our lungs, and she would follow suit, clearing her desk of organization and papers and YAWPing right along with us.  I wanted to be her, and even though I don't feel I could do it with high school students, there's still a chance.

And, some day, after I'm Dr. So-and-So, I'm going to have my writing students stand on tables and YAWP the first day of class.  With capital letters and without shoes, if they so choose.

Because that's who I am.  At my core, I am a writer, and there's nothing I can do to change that.

-AA 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 320 - "Can We Pretend That Airplanes / In the Night Sky / Are Like Shooting Stars"

After two days of playing phone tag with Kent State, I finally got (a) someone who had a pulse to pick up the phone and (b) an answer to the mysterious please contact the admissions office line.

Here's how it all went down:

Me: "Hi, my name is Ashley Anderson and I am applying for the higher education administration program.  My online application status told me that I needed to contact the admissions office for further information."

Admissions Counselor asks for Social Security number.

I give her Social Security number.

Type type type.  Doesn't work.  Provide with full name, date of birth, and my SSN again.

Admissions Counselor:  "It says here that the decision made was to deny your application due to the program and the waitlist being full.  Those letters won't be sent out until the end of this month.  Does that answer your question?"

Me:  "Yes, thank you.  Have a good day."

Admissions Counselor:  "Mmmhmmm.  Good bye."

Commence flood of tears. 

Not only did I have the ultimate shitty day at work (pardon my French) but it's pushing 100 degrees outside, I have a sunburn, and I don't do heat.  My tolerance for anything decreases exponentially after the thermometer hits 75 degrees.  By this point, my tolerance for rejection, bull shit (again, pardon the French, but there may be a lot of that word today,) and general grumpiness and stupidity was reaching Absolute Zero.

Of course, as I'm crying, everyone keeps telling me that it's a sign that maybe Kent wasn't the right place for me either, that I just need to keep trying and I'll find the place where I'm supposed to be.  At this point, I'm borderline hyperventilating because it is so friggin' hot and I'm so upset because nobody seems to get it.

Any other program requires taking the GRE.

The GRE costs $150 to take the general test.

I don't have $150 because I'm cranking out $1000 a month in student loan bills.  My income from both jobs is literally $1100 a month (I almost published $11000.  That would be nice.)  After gas, I may have $75 of disposable income available.  If I have a credit card bill, that number is less. 

My savings account is 25% the size it was when the year 2010 started. 

For now, the buck stops the search because I don't have the money and no one seems to understand that.  No, I can't go to the movies.  No, I can't go out with my sister and spare $10 to get a manicure.  No, I can't take the GRE or even afford a book to help me study for it.  No, I can't go out for dinner with friends because my disposable income is virtually zero.

It's like my worst nightmare playing out in front of me while I'm stuck in an oven.  I can't stand to stay at the Job From Hell because I am literally dying on the inside there.  I can't afford to get a new job and take a pay cut because then I'll end up not being able to pay my student loan bills, which disqualifies me for financial aid until I pay the balance back AND it screws up my credit score.  No financial aid eligibility = no grad school = Ashley feeling like a complete and total Loser.  Yes, with a capital L.

Maybe I'm not applying to the right program.  Maybe the right school isn't in Ohio.  Maybe I'm doomed to be working barely-above-minimum-wage-jobs and be miserable for the rest of my life.  Right now, my stomach is tossing and turning and I feel like puking and I really don't know what to do next.  Do I go for my MA or MFA in creative writing and then try to find a PhD in creative writing program and be the world's youngest and least life-experienced creative writing prof?  Or do I keep trying for higher ed?  Or do I just waste away at a drive thru window while I continue to slowly decompose on the inside?

-AA

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 318 - "Toes Gripping the Edge, Staring Out At What Comes Next"

I checked my grad school application for Kent State a couple of minutes ago:

GRADUATE APPLICATION STATUS FOR KENT STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND HUMAN SERVICES: DECISION MADE

Please contact admissions office for further information.

Sweet mother of all things good and holy, please let this just be a blip in the system.  If this is another we're-cutting-budgets-so-instead-of-using-paper-to-mail-a-letter-to-you-or-electricity-to-email-you-we-will-make-you-call-us rejection notice, it's the end of the road as far as grad school is concerned.  I can't afford the $150 to take the GRE.

I am literally scared like tomorrow will not exist for me.  I mean, this is it - we're over halfway through summer, I still don't have plans for the fall, and I am not the kind of person to fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to something big like this.

When it comes to deciding what I am going to wear on any given day, yes I will dive in head first without any plans, but this is something that requires the analytical, structured, organization-on-crack side of me.  I plotted, I planned, and having to wait until tomorrow in order to know any kind of information is making the grilled red skin garlic potatoes that I had for dinner do all kinds of flips and kicks and stuff.

I am really hoping that it is something somewhat simple, even as complicated as "we'll accept you, but all of our courses for the fall term are full so you'll have to wait to take classes until the spring term."  I can deal with that.  I can make plans with that, take some summer classes, and get caught up to graduate in the spring of 2012 - or not take summer classes and graduate with my sister in December 2012 (aaawwww, how cute!) and find something to do during the spring term while I wait for the 2013-2014 academic year to start. 

Side note - holy moley, look at those dates!

I'm really hoping that it's just the fact that classes are closed.  I can deal with that.  Dealing with another rejection notice and the realization that this is all over, on the other hand, I don't think I could handle.  Especially with the possibility of another year stint at Food Service Hell staring me in the face.  I need to get out.  I need this to happen. 

Please?  Pretty please?

-AA

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 313 - "Down That Red Dirt Road"

It seems like I keep having car stories this year.

I was on my way to hell - wait, I mean the job I really don't like and want to quit but I have bills to pay - on Monday morning.  As usual, it was 3:45 in the morning, dark, and all I wanted to do was go back to bed.  I was about a third of the way to work when it all started.

The biggest cat I have ever seen in my entire life ran out of the ditch and I hit the poor soul with my car. 

I don't like hitting animals.  There were one or two crazy kids that I went to high school with that took pleasure in hitting animals as soon as they were able to legally climb behind the wheel without an adult.  I hope they all end up in prison someday.

Anyway, the cat keeps running into the road and I'm gripping the steering wheel, praying that the cat would come to its senses and stop before what was becoming increasingly inevitable happened. 

I tried to stop.  It wasn't soon enough.

TH-THUMP!  TH-THUMP!  TH-THUMP!

I slam on the brakes and hope that, as my car is coming to a stop, I'm not dragging this massive household feline under my car, because I'm already groggy and tired and upset because I am probably going to the evil place for killing someone's beloved pet.  After I sat smack in the middle of the road for a minute or two to calm myself down, I start driving off.

That's when I heard it.  The sound.

It sounded like part of my car was scraping across the pavement, making an awful dragging sound that made me wonder if my car came out of this just as bad as the cat.  I forced my car to limp along until we got to work, the scraping sound haunting me the rest of the way there.  Not a good idea to stop and take a look - it was dark outside and, out here in farm country, we don't believe in street lights!

It wasn't until I had gotten off of work that I saw the damage.  The thick plastic sheet that hangs back under the bumper had been torn off, and a foot long and three or four inch wide portion of the sheet was hanging at an angle and dangerously close to the ground.  I panicked - my car was broken!

I won't lie; my car does have some battle scars.  There's a crack in the front bumper from where, while trying to leave my assigned parking lot when I was in college, bumper met road because the grade of the drive wasn't maintained and resulted in the automotive version of biting it hard.  There's a slight dent in the roof where the back windshield meets the roof.  To be honest, you can't even tell it's there a good 99.9999999 into infinity percent of the time.  I have no clue how it got there.

My little Neon and I limped home, still wounded from kitty cat battle and I waited until my dad got home.  I was hoping that this was not going to require a trip to the repair shop because, well, it would have to wait until I got paid this coming Monday.  Dad tells me to pull my car up, gets a wrench, and tosses me the piece of plastic after a couple of quick turns and a tug.

Then comes the lecture.  "You need to learn to take better care of this car.  You haven't taken care of it at all," he says in his gruff, I-was-in-the-military-and-yes-I-am-quite-upset-with-you.

Let's recap:
  • pulverized plastic - Not my fault.  The cat ran under my car of its own free will / predestination.
  • road burnt bumper - Not my fault.  My school failed to take care of its facilities and not so politely reminded me that it was a risk I took while parking on campus.  (??????????)
  • lightly riddled roof - Once again, not my fault.  Not sure how it got there, but it was another of those "inherit risks of parking on campus."
I'm not sure what I was supposed to learn from all of this.  Don't hit cats?  Don't hit really big cats?  Or don't have your dad fix your car?

-AA

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 306 - Part 2

Just an update: I found my eyeshadow palette.  My little little sister hijacked it and I found it when I knocked a purse off of our purse rack in our room. 

Now, the question is, do I approach her directly about it or do I just "miraculously" find it somewhere obvious, like under the bed or in a bathroom drawer?  I think we'll just wait it out and see how she reacts.  What was she going to do with it, anyway?

-AA

Day 306 - "So I Put My Hands Up"

I'm just going to set the record straight - I am not, nor will I ever be, a fan of Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, or whatever alias she is going by these days.

I am frustrated, though.  I've been tearing the house apart looking for something that I know I did not forget at Girls State last week, that has to be within the Anderson household, and will be extremely, extremely difficult to replace if I can't find it.   What is missing, you ask?

My eyeshadow palette.  But it's not just any eyeshadow palette - it's from Victoria's Secret, and it's special because it's a) part of a set, b) a part of a limited edition set that has been discontinued, c) the perfect colors for me, and d) it's one of the few pieces of nice, quality make up that I actually own.  Plus, the case is pretty.

You see, I got this eyeshadow palette as a Christmas present along with the rest of the make up set.  I had been enamored with the set since I saw it in Victoria's Secret's Christmas 2009 catalog, and when my mom (aka Santa) picked one up the day after Thanksgiving I was happy.  I don't wear cosmetics that often because I usually am too lazy or don't have the time to put the stuff on, so when I get excited about anything girly - whether it's shampoo, bobby pins, or eyeshadow - it's huge.  After I opened all of the make up on Christmas morning and oohed and aahed at the pretty colors, I told myself that this was going to be strictly for special occasions.  I bought the set its own make up bag and kept it in my room instead of in the bathroom with my sisters' stuff.

Well, I packed that same bag when I was getting ready to leave for Girls State because the program requires dressing up a number of times, and if I were to be the governor's floor mother again or be hob-knobbing with some VIPs in the world of Ohio and national politics, I wanted to look presentable.  I used my eyeshadow, I packed it up at the end of the week, and brought it home.  Before I left, I even made sure that there was absolutely nothing left in my dorm room.

And now I can't find that eyeshadow to save my life.

Erin and Katie have been sitting around today watching me go crazy trying to find it.  "What's the big deal," Erin said at one point.  "It's not like you wear make up anyway.  Why are you so upset over something you never use?"

Well, here's why:
1. My mother (aka Santa) spent quite a bit of money on it given that it is eyeshadow.  Money that could have been spent on something else.
2. I don't own much make up, so when something does go missing, I may not have anything to back it up.
3. Again, it's not available for sale anymore, unless I can find one on eBay, which is a little sketchy sanitation-wise.
4. The principle: it's mine, and I would like it back.

This may be a random post, but I felt like I needed to get this off my chest.  I mean, I would like to look nice when I do actually leave the house, and nice make up is expensive.  I'm just hoping one of my sisters isn't hiding it for fun - then, there may be some tears.

-AA 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 283 - "And You're Tryin', But You Can't Hold On Anymore"

Well, I've had eight days to try to move on past the rejection letter.  It was a pretty hard gut shot to take, especially since I had been waiting for months for something, whether it was a letter or a smoke signal off in the distance.

As usual, I spent a lot of time last week thinking about what I could have done better.  Could I have reread that admissions essay one more time?  Could I have highlighted one more bullet point on my resume?  Could I, way back during my very first semester of college, taken that American Musical Theater class pass/fail so that my GPA broke the 3.5 mark? 

Or, as another wild thought I entertained convinced me, could I have been telling myself that this was the place I needed to be when I really wasn't being true to myself?

I've never been good at handling rejection when it's something that I really want.  I am my own worst critic's inspiration, beating myself down for every little thing that goes wrong.  It is never anyone else's fault; I'm too independent to admit that it could just be that things were not meant to work out this way and that there is somewhere bigger and better for me.  I just have to find it - fast.

So, for now, the plan is to apply to Kent State's higher ed administration program.  It's not my dream plan, but the plus side is that I can live at home, which saves me money, and I know people already in the program.  My sister will also be at Kent, so I know I won't be completely alone.

I guess that this rejection notice is some sort of life lesson.  When I was applying to colleges during my senior year of high school, I didn't get into my first choice.  As a matter of fact, the school that is now my college alma mater was my fourth choice school - out of the four schools I applied to.  But you know what?  Looking back, I don't think I would have been as happy at any of the other schools as I was at my alma mater.  Maybe there's a lesson to be learned from this, something that I'm too young and inexperienced to see at this point in my life.

-AA

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 275 - "When You're Broken, In A Million Little Pieces"

Application status for Baldwin-Wallace College's leadership in higher education program:

REJECTED.

-AA

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 264 - "A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That"

I've got some major updates to talk about.  And I have been a little bit of a slacker, but sometimes I get so caught up in life and everything that I need/have/want to do that I kind of forget to write it down.  That's supposed to be good, right?

Anyways, I got my first reprint request on one of my articles!  Marist College, which is in New York state, emailed me asking to reprint one of my articles in a newsletter from their academic advising office.  Unfortunately, I don't have rights to allow electronic reprints on that article yet because it's less than a year old, but I offered to either write them a new article or for them to link to it...and they never got back to me.  sigh

Then, over this past weekend, my sorority little sister graduated from college.  It was strange, sitting during a shortened ceremony because it was freezing cold and raining (surprise!) and knowing that a year ago this past weekend I became a college graduate.  It still really hasn't hit me yet that my degree is officially one year old as of May 9.  I think as the rest of this month goes by and I (hopefully) hear something about graduate school that it will really hit me.

In other, other news, still nothing from graduate school.  They also had graduation and finals this past week and weekend, so I figure that all of the administrators were tied up in preparing for the end of the year and the beginning of the summer term.  If I don't hear anything by the end of next week, it's time to write another follow-up email, I guess.  Is there such a thing as being too diligent with following up after interviews?

Currently, the house is a-tizzy over Erin's car.  I got a call from her just as I was leaving work today saying that her brakes on her car went out, and that the only way to get her car to stop was to punch the brake pedal all the way to the floor.  Turns out she lost all of her brake fluid while she was on campus sometime today, either because she has a hole in her brake lines or someone cut them.  Let's hope it's just a hole - I don't know what to think if someone has it out for Erin, of all people!

-AA

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 244 - "Someday I'll Wish Upon A Star"

I emailed the program director (again - persistence is key, right?) about my interviews and she said that they are still conducting some interviews for certain positions, with some of the appointments being scheduled after April 30th. 

I guess it's still waiting time.  I just want to know!

I'll post updates as they become available.  Otherwise, not much is going on in life except working, working, and working some more.  I feel so run down and out of it that I honestly want school to start so that I can have a somewhat normal sleep schedule.  As in, going to bed when it's dark outside and waking up hours after the newspaper has been delivered, not as the newspaper is being shoved in the box.

-AA

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 236 - "Patience Is a Virtue"

Still waiting on news about graduate school interviews.  My parents are trying to get me pumped up about getting my master's, going to grad school, and having my first apartment. 

I'm not getting too excited until I have an acceptance letter in my hands and I've pinched myself to know I'm not dreaming.  I don't think I could mentally handle getting excited and then getting rejected.  Been there, done that, and don't want to do it again.

I'll keep everyone posted.

-AA

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 231 - I Can't Think of a Title. It's Late.

I'm still waiting for word on my internship interviews.  They still have some more interviews to attend to, so I'm hoping to have news by the end of the month.

It's been a long weekend and it's almost 11 on a Saturday night.  I, being the young twenty-something I am, should be out living it up, but I am too tired and my head is beginning to hurt.

Bed time for me.  I'll be back when I'm more awake, which may or may not be tomorrow.

-AA

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 224 - "Just Sit Back, Relax, and Just Chill"

It's been a busy couple of days, but here's the update on my graduate school interviews. 

My first interview was for a hall director and arts/cultural programming internship.  This one, well, went okay, but I have almost zero residence life experience so I think this one has been knocked out as a possibility.

My second interview was for an internship in the academic advising and Registrar's offices.  So far, I think this one is my top choice and the interview went really well.  Not only that, if I want to be a professor some day, I need some experience in college academics - why not start out with advising?

My third interview was phenomenal!!!!  It was for a position with the Upward Bound program, which helps teenagers from certain demographics prepare and want to go to college.  The program coordinator is so passionate about the program that it's almost impossible not to catch her enthusiasm.  The interview felt so natural and honest that I almost have to think that this one is tied for my number one pick.

Now, I just need to sort out my thoughts and email the program director on Monday.  I may have to make a hard decision as to where I would like to go, which could take some deep thinking on my part.

-AA

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 207 - "Movin' On Up"

I'm separating all of my news into two blog posts to make it easier on the eyes.

After all of the stress I had been putting myself through, I broke down Sunday evening and emailed my admissions counselor for graduate school.  I was worried enough and had had enough close calls with panic attacks that I needed to do something.  Panic symptoms suck.

When I got home from work Monday afternoon, there was an email waiting from the program director.  It turns out that some of my paperwork had gotten misplaced, misfiled, or something, and that I could have had an answer weeks ago.  All I would have had to have done was gotten over myself and emailed someone.

Now I'm gearing up for interviews!  I have a bunch of internships that I spent all day today writing cover letters and resumes for and I'll be tentatively interviewing for positions on April 1st!

I feel so much lighter now.  All of this weight has just slid off of me and I feel like me again.  The stress is gone.  I just have to go in there, show them how awesome I am, and hope that I don't do something stupid - like trip over my own two feet.

-AA

Day 207 - "A Little Bit of Life"

I was in such a panic about grad school that I forgot to share a little slice of me growing up.

I, the mechanically challenged 23-year-old that I am, bought a set of tires all by myself last week.

You see, I was driving home from work Thursday afternoon and I apparently ran over a screw, completely unnoticed.  Around three o'clock that afternoon, my sister Erin drops by for a visit, and as she walks in the door, I hear, "Dude, Ashley, you've got a flat tire."

"What are you talking about?" I replied.

"Go look at it!  I was wondering why you were parked like that.  How'd you miss it?"

Sure enough, I went to look at my car and my front passenger's side tire was flat.  I don't mean just a little slack, but cartoonish, oh-my-gosh-what-the-h#%$-happened flat.  Thankfully, my dad came home a couple of minutes later, discovered the screw, and sent me to have my tire fixed.  That was the quickest and cheapest car repair I've ever had done.  Fifteen minutes, five bucks, and I was back on the road.

However, my tires were the original ones on the car and, according to the mechanic at the shop, pretty well worn, so Friday I had to venture out and get new tires.  The guy who put the plug in my old tire quoted me a price of a little over $320 for a full set, but being slightly broke I did not want to spend that much on tires.

Finally, Friday afternoon, I bought a set of tires for $271.11.  I did it all on my own, without my dad or boyfriend there to help. 

And I know nothing about tires.

I know that it sounds strange to be so proud about buying tires, but it's one of those ventures into the adult world that sort of validates that yes, I can function on my own even if I have absolutely no clue what I'm talking about.  I sorted out a major investment and took care of it all of my own accord, and it felt good.

Well, until I handed over the check.  That kind of stunk.

-AA

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day 203 - "If I Just Breathe"

After nearly throwing up at work Wednesday because of the panic, nerves, and stress I've been feeling about grad school, I talked to my friend Sondra.  Sondra lived across the hall from me during my first year of college and was one of the first upperclassmen I had met.  She's also in a higher education administration program and working on her master's degree.

She reminded me that "early March" could be any time until around the 20th of the month, so I guess that I still have some waiting to do.  Not only that, the school was on spring break this past week, so all of my panic about this was somewhat irrational - no one was even there to discuss any of the applications, let alone send out interview invites.

We'll just wait and see, wait and see.  If all else fails, then Sondra's program has an application deadline of May 15th.  There's still time; I'm just uneasy as to how much time is enough.

-AA

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 198 - "In This White Wave, I Am Sinking in This Silence"

I am officially, without a doubt, in full-on panic mode.  By that, I mean that I am probably one wrong glance away from a full blown clinical panic attack.

I keep obsessively checking my email, jumping every time my phone rings, lunging at any form of communication that may or may not reduce the sense of panic I feel rising in my abdomen and set my nerves at ease.  It's a teeth grinding, stomach churning, heavy chested form of hell where I don't know which way is up or when it is going to end.

I just know that it is going to end sometime, whether in good or bad news.

Everyone keeps telling me that I have nothing to worry about, that I have no problems talking to people and that the most challenging task would be figuring out which assistantship to put me in.  That's not what I'm worried about - once I get to an interview, any interview, I'll be fine - it's the indefinite wait that is rubbing my nerves raw like scrubbing your face with steel wool.  I'm almost to the point that I've resigned myself to a rejection letter, even though the application deadline was just Friday and I know that they didn't meet over the weekend.

If the suspense doesn't kill me, then it'll raise my blood pressure enough to be that of a normal person.  More updates tomorrow, or as soon as I hear something.

-AA

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 195 - (Quiet)

Today is the official deadline to apply to my graduate program.  I should know in "early March" whether or not I am being asked to interview for a graduate assistantship.  Needless to say, I have been one hot mess all week.

This weekend is going to be torture.  Will I know Monday?  Tuesday?  Tonight after everyone has left the office?  I hate not knowing.  Surprises are okay, but when my future hangs in the balance, I am not okay with handing control of my life over to someone else.

I guess I'll just have to keep waiting.  I'll have to hear something eventually - right?

-AA

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 185 - "Let My People Go!"

So the title's not a song lyric, but a line from the movie The Ten Commandments.  I find it fitting given what I came across today.

I had just gotten home from work and was sorting through the eighty-some Twitter updates that I had on my phone since my break.  One of them was from Poynter, linking to an article about internships.  Specifically, about student journalists in internships in order to "gain professional experience."

I was intrigued, so I sat down at the computer to check out the article while still sifting through messages.  That's when I came across an update from my college classmate Ashley, who had already blogged about it on her website.  (I guess news travels fast when things are retweeted - is that even a legitimate word?)

Here's the point: major publishers, such as HuffPost and the NY Times, are using student journalists and interns to create content for websites and the like after buying out contracts for hundreds of professional, established writers.  Okay, you may say, that's good that these students are networking and getting experience, yadah yadah yadah.

This is where it gets hairy - they are not being compensated for their work.

For example, journalism students at NYU have been enlisted to help the Times create a new blog called "The Local East Village."  The students are writing, editing, photographing, and working with a deputy metropolitan editor from the Times as - get this - a part of a class called "The Hyperlocal Newsroom."

Excuse me?

Basically, student journalists and interns across the country are getting roped into (or forced if they are required to have an internship to graduate) these "programs" where they do the work of a professional journalist, one who has probably already been laid off or told that they have "become redundant," without appropriate compensation, and in many cases only a byline and clips for a portfolio.

As Ashley put it, this equates to modern day slavery.  Work for no compensation?  I don't think these students are looking for community service hours to work off a residence hall violation.

Some may argue that, well, these students are getting class credit for their work, which eventually turns into a degree and a line on a resume that could land them a paying position with a company that they once basically allowed to enslave them so that they could get through a course requirement in order to get a job in an industry that is about as unstable as they come right now.

Wrong.  I was in one of those communications programs that required an internship, and I interned with a non-profit organization working on press releases, event management, and grant writing.  I more than likely made the organization absolutely no money.  I received course credit, but no monetary compensation, which doesn't bother me one bit.  Why?  Because I genuinely, professionally, benefitted from the experience.  My supervisor took the time out of his schedule to make sure that I learned the skills necessary in order to succeed in the job world.  That outweighed the monetary compensation that I could have received.  It's like the old addage about the fish.  Instead of eating now, I was taught to fish for a lifetime.

For these student journalists and interns, that's not the case.  These companies aren't looking to create an educational experience, but instead are looking to create a quick buck with as little overhead as possible.  And hey, if they can get some kid off the street who needs a couple of credit hours in order to graduate and they can write their way out of a paper bag, then hire him (a.k.a. enslave him) and not compensate him for his work.

The line needs to be drawn somewhere.  Integrity is a huge part of the publishing industry, and how can we as media practitioners continue to hold our heads up and try to save our industry, our way of life, if our future colleagues are basically selling themselves into slavery for a couple of weeks, and then we turn our backs on them when they need a job the most? 

This needs to come to an end.  There are ways to create unpaid internships that are of benefit to both sides, but enslaving journalism students and recent graduates is not going to eliminate overhead, cut expenses, or save the industry.  We have to save ourselves before we can save our craft.

-AA