Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comcast "Cares"

"Thank you for calling Comcast. Please make yourself comfortable. For nondescript jazz, please press 1. To hear reassuring lies like 'A customer service representative will be with you shortly,' press 2. For blaring heavy metal that you can hear in the next room if you decide to set the phone down in an effort to avoid wasting your life on hold, press 3." I would have chosen the third option this morning.

It all began with a monthly cable bill that was twice as high as normal. Of course, I figured that our fabulous promotional rates had run out, and I would just need to change my service plan to pay a more reasonable amount. Should have been simple, right? I was probably naive to think so. I tried to log in at Comcast's website and they told me that my account already had an email address linked to it and that I wasn't using the right one. So I figured that the email address was my old roommate's, since she was the one who'd originally opened the account.

Given that I had no time to wait on hold, I decided to follow the website's cheery suggestion to email them and receive a quick, helpful response within twenty-four hours. I received an incredibly understanding, comforting email with no real content. This is an actual direct quote:

I understand you would like to know why the total amount due is more than what it has been in the past and that you cannot log in to your online account using your non Comcast email address. I apologize for the confusion this high bill charges has caused you and I completely know the importance of having able to access your account online. Please do not worry; I am here to provide the necessary information about your bill and how you can get your user ID and password.

Oh, good. I feel so soothed. After I sent a follow-up email, Comcast finally gave me directions for how to solve my problem: I should close my current account to get rid of my old roommate's information and open a new one by clicking on a particular link and choosing new services. This sounded easy enough, so I decided to take care of it this morning as I was drinking my pre-work cup of coffee.

Big mistake.

The final step was a Live Chat in which the rep said that I couldn't possibly do what I was trying to do without calling Comcast. "I’m sorry; we cannot process your request at this time. Please call [phone number]." Since Comcast continually boasts that its email and Live Chat services are just as good as its phone services, I said something like, "I was following the directions in an email; please work with me to resolve this issue." The person—whom I was beginning to suspect to be a computer—pretty much repeated the exact sentence about not being able to process my order. It seems that email and Live Chat are just fancy ways for Comcast to avoid helping its customers.

Then I asked, "Why didn't the email just tell me to call instead of directing me to the Live Chat?" The rep started typing something and then changed his mind and typed something else, so I decided he must actually be a real person. He basically said he didn't know and repeated that I had to call the number. To which I responded: "Fine. Thanks for your 'help.'" I couldn't resist the sarcastic quotation marks, even though they are the most obnoxious thing in the world, and then of course I felt bad about it.

After all, it hasn't been that long since I've had a terrible customer service job; I know that he's just following some instructions in a manual and that part of his training was probably something like: "Don't innovate; don't use your problem-solving skills; just do exactly what the manual says." Because that's how big companies are. They treat their employees like idiots so that they can justify paying them diddly squat. So it's pretty sad that right after I'd decided this Live Chat rep was a real person, I treated him like he wasn't one.

At this point, I was already running late. I should have just postponed my call to Comcast. But I was frustrated and wanted to start out my day by solving this problem, not letting it drag on and on. So I called the customer service number and went through several rounds of "for [this problem], press 1." Then I got to the dreaded automated voice: "Thank you for calling Comcast. All available representatives are assisting other customers. Your estimated wait time is nine minutes." Okay, I thought, I can handle nine minutes. Don't ask me why I ever believe these automated voices.

So I started getting ready with the phone wedged in between my chin and my shoulder. The background music was so quiet that I could barely hear it when the phone was jammed against my ear, much less when I put it down momentarily to apply foundation or pull a shirt over my head. Putting on my makeup was the most amusing. I had my phone on my vanity, and I kept bending over to listen. If I didn't hear anything, I'd say, "Hello? Hello?" And of course, no one was there.

After at least forty minutes, as I was walking to the bus (a later one than I usually take), someone finally answered. I was out of breath from hurrying to the bus so when he asked me to describe the problem, I probably sounded like I was about to have a breakdown. I really wasn't; I had calmed down since the Live Chat incident. In fact, when he asked how I was doing, I nicely told him about my difficulties but assured him that I knew it wasn't his fault.

Anyways, he solved my problems beautifully. He actually seemed to want to answer my questions and find solutions. I'm getting the services I want at a reasonable rate, and I don't have to close my account and re-open it. (This would have involved paying for another installation, waiting around for four hours for the cable guy to come, and then having to deal with reconnecting my wireless adapter, which always causes an excessive amount of problems.) And best of all, the new services will begin immediately so I won't have to pay double for the month of July.

Though Comcast doesn’t care, at least one of its employees does.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Boys from Little Mexico--A Review

Books like Steve Wilson's The Boys from Little Mexico (Beacon Press, June 2010) are exactly why I want to go into publishing. I've had a lifelong obsession with beautiful writing and compelling narratives, and more recently, I've developed a passion for works of art and literature that promote true understanding among people and groups who might not otherwise come into contact with each other. The Boys from Little Mexico is one of those rare gems of literary non-fiction that both exhibits excellent writing and opens the reader's eyes to the lives of fellow human beings.

Chronicling the season of an all-Hispanic high school soccer team, The Boys from Little Mexico is about so much more than sports. Perhaps most importantly, it is about the meaning of sports for the players and coaches we meet while reading it. Some of these boys knew that a soccer scholarship was their only shot at a four-year college education; others acknowledged that soccer gave them a reason not to drop out of high school. But on a more abstract level, soccer had the potential to give them a vision of success, a feeling of self-confidence, and a commitment to hard work. But, consequently, losses on the field sometimes seemed to portend weightier, life-altering losses.

Anyone who wishes to understand the nuanced and so very human elements behind immigration and education policies should read this book. Meet Octavio, who as a young teenager made the decision to make the dangerous trek across the Mexican/American border with no papers and go to school and play soccer in the U.S. Meet Carlos, who had to be taken from his birth mother when he was 5 years old and watch out for his younger siblings in three different foster homes before graduating from high school. Meet Coach Mike Flannigan, an Irish-American who continually seeks to understand his players better and help them succeed both on and off the field.

But even though this book deals with important, heavy issues, it doesn't feel like one of those books we all know we "should" read but don't really want to. On the contrary, the writing is quite engaging. On multiple occasions, I wasn't able to put the book down after I got off the subway so I kept reading it while walking to work! Even though I'm not really a sports fan, I was drawn into the fast-paced soccer games and even found myself holding my breath to find out if the ball would successfully make it between the goal posts. Steve Wilson manages to write these scenes in a way that soccer fans and neophytes alike will be able to visualize and experience the games much as they would if they were actually in the stands (and in the case of neophytes like me, we understand what's going on much better than we would if we were just watching a game). Similarly, Wilson's descriptions of political policies bear immediate relevancy to the lives of those in the story and, as such, manifest the complexities and importance of these issues while advancing the book's enthralling narrative. I highly recommend The Boys from Little Mexico to anyone who cares about education, immigration, sports, or just a really good story.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I moved to Boston, with a tasty dose of feminism, from ch. 12 of Jane Eyre

Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when, while Adele played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line--that then I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen--that then I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach. I valued what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good in Adele; but I believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness, and what I believed in I wished to behold.

Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it--and, certainly, they were many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was never ended--a tale my imagination created, and narrated continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

Thanks, classiclit, for providing the text.

Monday, May 3, 2010


This was my end-of-semester reflection for my Book Editing class. The last paragraph is particularly amusing because it's just about the most pretentious thing anyone has ever written, yet I'm trying to use it to explain that editors aren't pretentious.

When I first signed up for the Book Editing class, I honestly didn’t know whether I wanted to be an editor or not, mostly because I promised myself when I came to Emerson that I would be open to the many and varied opportunities that exist in publishing. "Sure you may think you want to be an editor,” I told myself. “But everyone who goes into publishing thinks they want to be an editor because they don’t know what else is out there."

This attitude of openness was a good one to have at the beginning of my Emerson career. But at the end of my first year—after purposely seeking out publishing experiences outside of the editorial world—I am pretty confident in saying that I want to work in editorial. Yes, production, publicity, and marketing are all fun fields. And yes, I’m capable of understanding the financial and legal aspects of publishing. But nothing compares to the thrill of working with ideas, people, and words as an editor.

As an undergraduate, I majored in English literature and psychology. I remember saying that I thought I would love to work in counseling if I could only have intelligent, highly verbal clients. Of course, there is no field of psychology that would allow a therapist to have only these types of clients. But the author/editor relationship contains some of the elements I liked about psychology: discussing complex, intellectual, personal issues from multiple perspectives; building good rapport; and adapting one’s techniques depending on who is sitting on the other side of the desk. I really enjoy the challenge of understanding and working with all sorts of people, and the author/editor relationship provides many such opportunities.

I love working with ideas—and their mode of transportation, words—just as much as I love working with people. There is something invigorating about seeing the potential in a manuscript and knowing that you could be the fresh set of eyes that helps it reach that potential. The non-fiction ethnographic manuscript I worked with in this class has so much potential both as a literary work and as a book that might make some of its readers think differently about the world. Getting the chance to work with books like that would not only be fun; it would be meaningful.

Because I am much more focused on big ideas and themes, I would like to be an acquisitions and/or developmental editor. I would love to build my own lists, and I’d love to help polish every book on that list. When a young editor from Beacon Press came to our class and talked about starting her own list of graphic novels, I got really excited to think that she had been sitting in my position just a few years ago.

Speaking of Beacon Press, that is one of the ideal types of houses I would like to work for. I am much more attracted to small, independent houses because I think I’d get more opportunities to try different things. They usually need staff members to have broader job descriptions, and they aren’t so set in their ways that they can’t recognize fresh, innovative ideas. I also love that Beacon Press is mission-driven; I strongly desire to work for a house that publishes important, elegant books, especially non-fiction.

In addition to small presses like Beacon, I could also see myself working for a university press, particularly one that does quite a few books that cross over into trade. I like books that explore complex ideas, but I especially like books that can express these ideas in such a way that an educated, non-expert can understand and be moved by them. This allows the books to have more influence, and it also usually means that they avoided the “dry as dust” pitfall that so many academic books succumb to.

One final, semi-facetious note about working as an editor: I like that you get to be smart without being pretentious. There aren’t too many editors whose walls are ostentatiously covered with diplomas or who expect instant respect the minute they spout off their job titles. Nevertheless, most editors are well-read with a broad range of interests, have a fast learning curve, invent creative and innovative ways to solve problems, and balance technical precision with aesthetic sensibility. If that’s not intelligence, I don’t know what is.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Patricia Smith Profile

Just a few days after writing a post about how I won't be writing as many posts, I am writing a new post. (And yes, the obnoxious repetition of the word "post" in that sentence was intentional.) I just really want to share a profile piece I wrote for my Magazine Publishing Overview class. I had a lot of fun writing it and I think some of you might be interested in learning more about one of my favorite poets, Patricia Smith. Keep in mind though that the purpose of this writing assignment was to produce writing in the style and voice of my class's magazine. (We are collectively putting together part of a "dummy issue" for a new mag called Junct, a culture magazine for 20-somethings. Our tagline is "Come Together. Right Now." which I love.) So because this assignment was for a fictional magazine, my professor said that we had full license to make things up for expediency's sake. To my knowledge, everything included in this piece is true, but it hasn't been fact-checked and all Patricia Smith quotes came from interviews conducted by other people (see list of references, below). So this is just a disclaimer to say that standards of journalistic excellence may be somewhat lacking. :-) But anyways, without further ado, the profile:

The Common Thread

Poet Patricia Smith charms the slam community, the elite literati, and audiences around the world.

by Jessica Colund

"They call me skinhead," says Patricia Smith, defiantly speaking in the voice of a white supremacist, "and I got my own beauty."

The audience is no longer seeing and hearing an African-American female poet; they are only seeing and hearing a bitter, prejudiced white man whose face "is huge and pockmarked, / scraped pink and brilliant, apple-cheeked." By the end of the piece, the audience—individually and collectively—have briefly taken on the persona of this man and seen the world through his eyes.

Smith was inspired to write "Skinhead" because she has always been interested in exploring the fundamental similarities between people who seem to be polar opposites. When she heard an interview with a neo-Nazi who painted a swastika on Plymouth Rock, she wondered what she had in common with him. "This guy is spewing all this hatred," she explains. "I thought, at some point, we started at a common point. He moved in that direction. I moved in another direction. So I wanted to write a poem that would bring us back to a common area."

Entering the mind of such an angry, twisted person is uncomfortable for many people, including Smith herself. When she first started to read this poem for audiences, a distinctive, unplanned accent developed. "I didn’t know where it came from," says Smith. "I think I got a little bit more into his head than I wanted to...I found myself having a hard time pulling out of the poem when it was done."

Nevertheless, Smith’s persona poems connect with many people because they find points of common humanity between the audience and the speaker in the poem. She says that these poems "force us outside of ourselves—which we should all in a perfect world do naturally anyway. We should strive to relate to whoever it is that we meet, or we don’t meet, anyway. I mean, that’s what the human race is supposedly all about."

Smith has presented her poetry everywhere from hole-in-the-wall Chicago bars and a train platform in Berlin to Carnegie Hall and Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival. People from every walk of life—age, race, class, educational background—gather together to hear Smith and be caught up in the vortex of her poems as they take on personas that are simultaneously familiar and alien.

The Slam Diva

Smith began her poetry career delivering spoken word poems in slam poetry competitions. She grew up on the west side of Chicago, which is known as "ground zero" of the slam poetry movement. Poetry slams are three-round competitions in which five amateur judges eliminate about half the poets each round. The last poet standing is the winner. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slam Poetry describes the stage presence of these early slammers:
"The experimenters in this new style of poetry presentation gyrated, rotated, spewed, and stepped their words along the bar top, dancing between the bottles, bellowing out the backdoor, standing on the street or on their stools, turning the west side of Chicago into a rainforest of dripping whispers or a blast furnace of fiery elongated syllables, phrases, snatches of scripts, and verse that electrified the night."

As a journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times in the 1980s, Smith was first introduced to slam poetry when she reported on the city’s first Turf Poetry Festival. She gave her first performance during an open mic event at the Green Mill, a Chicago cocktail lounge that hosts the famous Uptown Poetry Slam. Her thrilling performances and powerful narrative poems quickly won her the respect and admiration of Chicago’s slam community.

One member of this close-knit artistic group, Michael Brown, eventually became her husband. The pair of sizzling slammers moved to Boston in 1990 and brought the spoken word revolution with them. They co-founded the Boston Slam, which meets at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge. Slam’s growing popularity in Boston helped it spread to other parts of the country, and it soon become a national phenomenon.

At the forefront of this exploding movement, Smith became quite a rising star herself. She won the individual title at the very first National Poetry Slam Championships in 1990, and she went on to reclaim her crown three more times in 1991, 1993, and 1995. One of the pieces she performed in the 1996 championships, "Undertaker," was turned into a five-minute independent film that won awards at the Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals.

One of Smith’s greatest contributions to slam poetry was that her well-crafted verse legitimized the movement in the minds of the literati. Many of these highly educated individuals—some might call them snobs—believed that slam poetry was only about passionate performance and that there was very little linguistic value of the kind found in traditional, printed poems. Smith’s powerful voice cut through the "page versus stage" debate and proved that good poetry will succeed in both worlds. Just as her persona poems bring together people of various backgrounds, so her artistic style appeals to people with widely differing poetic tastes.

The Fall from Grace

While Smith’s career as a slam poet was taking off, her day job was writing columns for the Boston Globe. She had almost as many fans of her journalism as of her poetry; many readers were touched by the way she made her subjects come alive. Smith tried to express the full humanity of the people in her news stories, much as she did when writing poetry. In fact, she got into writing her persona poems because of her career as a journalist. Writing poetry was an important way for her to process the troubling events she reported on every day.

In both her poems and newspaper articles, Smith recognized that she was describing only one moment of many in her subjects’ lives. Each person’s life is far longer and more complex than the one event described in the piece, and she tried to make that richness evident in her writing. She explains, "I would see a news story and I would think, 'Well, where was the person in this story before the instance of this story. Where did they go after the story?' It’s like you place yourself at a prospective place in the story and try to write your way out of it."

Smith’s poignant and incisive stories earned her a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. And that’s when the ugly truth came out: Smith had fabricated sources and quotes in a few of her columns for the Globe, violating the first rule of journalism ethics. She says that she did it "to create the desired impact or slam home a salient point." But while her journalist’s voice and eye often enriched her poems, her poet’s imagination never should have entered the fact-filled world of reporting.

To her credit, Smith admits that her actions cannot be justified by her lack of time, by her drive to succeed, by her desire to produce a shining column every week. She says that these hollow excuses "point to the cursed fallibility of human beings, our tendency to spit in the face of common sense." Some of Smith’s colleagues and readers relished the downfall of a heroine while others felt betrayed, disillusioned, and disappointed. But despite her immense ability to stir readers’ thoughts and emotions, Smith never was a heroine. She was only a human being like the rest of us.

Smith’s life began to spiral downhill at a progressively faster rate. She lost her job at the Globe, as well as her American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award and her Pulitzer nomination. At the same time, her marriage went from bad to worse and eventually disintegrated completely. Her health deteriorated to the point that she could not leave her house for several weeks.

But like an arsonist phoenix rising from the ashes of her own making, Smith refused to let these events be the end for her. Not knowing where else to go, Smith returned to her hometown of Chicago and to her last remaining source of strength—slam poetry. She gave the most memorable performance of her life at the Chicago Cultural Center in front of the community she had always been real with, the one group who would not turn aside in disgust because of her professional sin and her personal despair. To thunderous applause and a standing ovation, Smith laid bare her soul.

The Voice of Humanity

Smith continued to pour her heart into her poetry. Before the incident at the Globe, she had already published three books of poetry, and her work had also appeared in literary journals such as The Paris Review and TriQuarterly. But the applause from critics grew increasingly louder. Teahouse of the Almighty, her first published poetry book in over a decade, was a 2005 National Poetry Series winner. Smith also won the very first Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in the poetry category. Perhaps most notably, Blood Dazzler, her book of poems about Hurricane Katrina, was a National Book Award finalist.

Blood Dazzler combines news headlines with deeply personal stories. Smith decided to write it when she "realized that there were quite a few people who wanted to file Katrina away and have it be done so they could get on with their lives...[but] we can’t fold this away; it has to be something that remains in the public consciousness." In the midst of her literary success, Smith’s goal remains the same as when she was first starting out as a slam poet: She hopes her poetry will lend a voice to those who are often overlooked or forgotten and help people see the common thread of humanity that binds us all together despite our differences.

Though Smith no longer competes in poetry slams, her spoken word roots are evident in her heartfelt poetry readings in which she captivates audiences the minute she opens her mouth. But her strong appeal to so many different people does not depend solely on her stellar performances. Bursting with passion, grittiness, heartache, and redemption, Smith’s poems are a rich tapestry of what it means to be human.

Group photo of Boston-based slam poets and musicians: Jeff Robinson, Blake Newman, Iyeoka Okoawo, Richard Cambrige, Askia Toure, Patricia Smith, Regie Gibson, & Quincy Troup at Hi-N-Dry Studio. (I've actually heard several of these people at the Lizard Lounge! Iyeoka Okoawo has such powerful poetry and her delivery is so moving.)

Patricia Smith's Website
University of Illinois--Patricia Smith Site
Interview about Persona Poems
Interview about Blood Dazzler
A Note of Apology (Patricia Smith's final editorial in the Globe) Note: I accessed this through Emerson's subscription to ProQuest.

Photo Credits

One of the benefits of online publication: Watch videos of Patricia Smith's poetry performances!

Patricia Smith at the Uptown Poetry Slam in Chicago

Patricia Smith performing "Skinhead"

Patricia Smith performing in the Lizard Lounge's poetry jam (After the traditional slam competition, the Lizard Lounge features one poet who performs with music in a "poetry jam." It's so fun!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Long Time Gone

Hey blogosphere!

It's been a while since I've written. I've been extremely busy because, thankfully, I got a job! I've been working in the legal department of a large biotech company for the past three weeks. It's a full-time job, which is what I really wanted/needed, even though it makes me incredibly busy. It's a pretty administrative job (it can be a wee bit boring), but I am NOT complaining. I am so grateful to have a job, especially in this economy. Plus the location is great; it's right between school and home. And the people I work with are SO nice and helpful. It's really a perfect job to coincide with grad school.

Additionally, I've neglected this blog because almost all of my personal (i.e., non-school) writing time has been devoted to journaling for the past month and a half. Sometimes it's comforting to know that I'm writing in a physical book that could be burned or torn or thrown into the ocean, destroying the only copy of whatever I had just written. I think a lot about my "digital footprint" and how anything I ever send absent-mindedly off into cyberspace will be there forever. Good thing I have no intention of becoming a high-profile politician or businesswoman.

Anyways, I just really wanted to share with all of you my good news (getting a job) and to say that I will write as often as I can, but don't be surprised if the blog doesn't get updated as regularly as it used to be. Until next time then, I bid you all a very fond farewell.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Back in Beantown

I am officially back in Boston, trying to remember what "my real life" is like. Being back in Minnesota for almost a month made me feel like Boston had been a dream or a study abroad trip. When I checked in at the Minneapolis airport, the ticket agent said to me, "Oh you're going back home." I was taken aback; no, didn't he realize that I'd been "going home for Christmas," that Minneapolis was my home? But I heard myself agreeing with him. Yes, I live in Boston. My apartment is there, my school is there, my job prospects are there, my internship is there, my church is there, my adventure is there.

Ah, adventures. I set off for Boston several months ago, knowing it would be an adventure. But this excursion is a longer, grittier adventure than any I've ever had before. When I traveled alone to England for a whole summer, that was certainly an adventure. But it ended after three months. My Boston adventure is not some whirlwind trip filled with excitement and non-stop action. It's real life. "And that has made all the difference."

You all may be sick of me saying this, but I really have this sense that I was "meant" to come to Boston, that this adventure is a crucial step in transforming me into the person I am meant to be. And I don't say this lightly: God has been working in my life since I came to Boston in ways I've never felt before. I keep telling people that "things just happen in Boston." I don't know how else to say it--things are happening in my life here; nothing is stagnant; and there's a sense of purpose in all that is transpiring. On my trip back to Minnesota, I saw how I really have become a slightly different person already. I'm not trying to brag, and I hope this blog post doesn't sound that way at all. I know I sometimes have a tendency to be prideful, but that's not at all how I feel when I think about how my Boston adventure has been changing me as a person. Rather, I feel gratitude and awe and excitement and inspiration and hope.

So there you have it, folks. I am back in Boston and I'm looking into the face of the Unknown with a "bring it on" smile. ;-)

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Year in Review (2009)

Though New Year’s kind of seems to fit in the "bogus holiday" category rather than the "deep and meaningful holiday" category, I actually really like it because I like reflecting on the major changes and challenges that occurred in the past year, and I like setting goals for the coming year.

Here's my personal review of 2009:

Winter (January-March)
I was working at the non-profit Christians for Biblical Equality as an editorial and administrative assistant. In March, I was given full-time hours and additional duties in the finance, development, and bookstore departments. I was also still working at the Barnes & Noble in the Eden Prairie Mall, though I did reduce my hours significantly when my CBE job became full-time.

Spring (April-June)
I finally got so fed up with Barnes & Noble that I quit. I hadn’t needed the job for several months, though the [very small amount of] extra income had been nice. I believe the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was when management decided to put yet another photocopied flyer in each of the booksellers’ mailboxes. This particular flyer showed a picture of a well-organized bookshelf next to a messy one and had a list of bullet points describing the above pictures. Please, like anyone could possibly be so stupid as to need such a flyer!

I got my official acceptance into both Emerson and NYU’s publishing grad programs. And I also got my tuition/financial aid statements from both of these schools, which caused me to ask myself perpetually, “Do you really think you can do this? Can you really make this happen without ending up on the streets?”

Summer (July-September)

My struggle over whether to move to Boston to go to Emerson intensified. My parents thought it was a risk that wasn’t worth taking. I, on the other hand, thought that if I didn’t take this risk, I would regret it for the rest of my life. If I couldn’t bring myself to do something like this now, would I ever end up living the exciting life I’d always dreamed of?

In August, I quit my full-time job in the middle of the worst economy since the Depression. I rented an SUV and drove to Boston, along with Ann without whom I would not have made it. Once we got to Boston, we immediately faced a bunch of mini-problems that seemed like a bigger deal to me than perhaps they should have. First of all, we had to carry all my heavy stuff in at 11:00 at night. Fortunately, the hurricane-like rainstorm had slowed to a drizzle. Then, we realized that the toilet wasn’t working properly and we didn’t have a plunger. Or toilet paper. Or a shower curtain. The next morning, I managed to lock myself out of the apartment by bringing a key that fit into the lock but wouldn’t actually open the door. Then we rented a U-Haul van, got lost in Boston’s hopelessly confusing and unmarked roads, got to IKEA and purchased a huge amount of HEAVY furniture, drove back to my apartment, and carried all of that back-breakingly heavy furniture inside (again, while it was raining). That was all within my first 24 hours in Boston.

But that was only the beginning of the challenges. Classes started in September, which actually felt like a breeze. I have handled school my entire life, but this was the first time I was encountering the major real-life dilemmas that come from relocating, becoming independent, and living as a real adult.

Fall (October-December)

This year, October was the cruelest month (sorry, T.S. Eliot). I’d had two interviews for a dream job as the Director of Communications at my church. I knew I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatched, but I really thought I would get the job. The people interviewing me were so positive, and the position seemed perfect for me, albeit a big step up from anything I’d ever done before. Unfortunately, I was not offered the job.

Also in October, my roommate decided that she wanted to break our lease and move out. This alone would have caused some amount of stress because it’s very difficult to try to find a new roommate in the middle of a semester. However, despite my efforts to maintain a polite and peaceful living environment, the tensions between us quickly grew out of hand to the point that we barely spoke to one another. This eventually made my apartment feel like the place I had to go to avoid living on the streets rather than my home.

But I am not trying to whine and complain and ask for pity. Though October was difficult for me, I grew a lot through it and I really am glad for these challenges. In November, though my circumstances hadn’t changed, my attitude had. I no longer felt that I would simply die if things didn’t work out as I’d hoped they would; instead, I began to truly believe that God’s grace is enough to get me through anything (see my “Yes, No, Wait?” blog post).

I also started a social media/PR internship at Harvard Common Press in November. I am helping out with a travel newsletter/blog that they are starting up. I’ve been learning a lot about how companies can use social networking and new media to create an online presence for themselves and inspire people to visit their website.

In December, my old roommate moved out, and my new roommate will be moving in any day now. I’m still waiting to hear about a job I interviewed for, but things sound fairly promising. (But again, I should not count my chickens before they hatch!) I finished up my first semester of classes, which ended up being really fun and enlightening. And now I’m back in Minnesota for Christmas and New Year’s.

2009 was a defining year of my life, and I am so glad that I took the risk of moving to Boston. I am looking forward to new challenges and triumphs in 2010.