Category Archives: About Us

Which way is up?

I started my first “grown-up” job 41 days ago. I moved to a city in a state I had never lived in before in order to take this job. I was pretty much willing to move anywhere after graduation for any job, except South Dakota.

I work nights. I feel like most night-work jobs are considered pretty low on the “ladder” we’re all supposed to climb while pursuing “careers.” Sorry for the unnecessary quotes, if you feel they were unnecessary, but I don’t want you to think that I’m the type of person who thinks in terms of a career ladder. Those are other people’s terms.

I thought I’d be content with any job that paid a living wage and was within my field and abilities. Oops. Should have been more specific.

So, where to go from here? You can do anything for a year, as I’ve been told time and time again by professors and mentors, so I’ll do this for a year. Then what? Which way is up from a place that seemed like it was everything I was asking for? Is going back to school to get a higher degree a step forward or a step backward? What about taking a job in a place where there are people I know and care about, even if the job doesn’t pay a living wage or isn’t within my field or abilities? Is that a step forward or a step back?

This is what I’ll be spending the next year pondering. Along the way, I’m certain I’ll have adventures that produce great coming-of-age stories I can share here.

Off the deep end

We live in a society in which our lives are more or less planned out for us until the age of 22 or so:

  • Step one: the basics. Learn to walk, talk, and be nice to people. Easy enough, once you get the hang of it.
  • Step two: go to school every day until you’re 18. While you’re at it, convince the adults there that you’re clever enough to contribute something to society.
  • Step three: get a college degree, no matter what it takes to pay for it. Assuming you want to do anything with your life, that is.

There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this path. Some drop out of school early to have a baby, get married or join the military (or, in the case of many girls I went to high school with, marry someone in the military and then have a baby). Some people decide to skip college, and somehow (to society’s dismay) manage to lead perfectly fulfilling lives anyway.

I am one of those who dutifully stuck to the path. I’ve spent my whole life so far moving steadily ahead, checking each educational goal off the list and living on minimum wages. Eventually, I was rewarded with a handshake and a piece of paper—and then the sidewalk ended. In front of me is a seemingly bottomless pool of debt and responsibility, and only a vague idea of how I’m supposed to proceed. Get a job? Okay, great. I’ll…get right on that.

A few of my colleagues are already bravely paddling ahead, lucky enough to find a full-time job or paid internship. Others have decided to buy some time (quite literally) by enrolling in graduate school. Many, like me, are still treading water by the edge, making barely enough money to get by (for now), but not ready to go anywhere yet. We’re driven, of course—how else would we have made it this far? We just need a direction to drive in now.

We’re talented but desperate people who have to seem self-assured in order to be taken seriously. We need to seem ambitious, but not too ambitious or they might think we’re after their jobs. We have to have experience, but not too much, or they won’t be able to pay us enough.

In the spirit of networking, I recently talked with a friend of a family friend, who is in the publishing industry. After a pretty helpful and encouraging conversation about the industry and a few interviewing tips, I asked him if he had any other advice as I move ahead with the job search. His response was something like this: “Be prepared to cry yourself to sleep some nights because it just seems so hopeless.”

Well…wow. At least he was honest.

Making a move in the near future, I hope

Whenever someone approaches me on the streets of Columbia with a clipboard or a coffee can, I wish I had a button.

“I vote in Illinois and I live paycheck to paycheck.”

It’s not that I’m opposed to signing ballot petitions or donating money, it’s just that I can’t because of where I am in my life. And even then, I don’t mind the conversations with these workers because the army of professional petition circulators is a fascinating phenomena.

And the place in my life where I am is changing constantly. I’m looking for part-time menial job work and a real job as well as balancing with family obligations, work, my friends still in Columbia and a long-distance relationship.

Four of those six balances are in a different city than me. Only work and friends in Columbia are in Columbia. My family has been dragging me to Chicago with medical emergencies pretty often. And I’m trying to move to the St. Louis area, where my girlfriend of eight years just started graduate school (at the same institution she attended for her undergrad, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville).

Which means that both of my job searches are taking place in St. Louis, because I want to live there pretty permanently when my lease is up in a month and a half, bumming couches for my last days of work in Columbia through the middle of August.

It’s weird to think that I’m actually looking for a part-time minimum wage job to commute to. Oh, and at the same time I’m looking for a real job in the journalism field to start, because that might pay better and I’d like to use my degree at some point.

It’s strange, difficult, and most of all, transitional. That’s exactly how I feel right now — transitional.

Welcome to my #Life.

Living quote to quote

Profound quotes fascinate me. I love to sift through the words to discover a quote’s meaning, and find ways to apply it to my life.

I signed up for an e-mail address at 9-years-old, because I wanted to receive famous quotes in my inbox every day. I started a Notpad .txt document on my old Dell and kept a running list of my favorites. Eventually, the list required a second document.

The quoters are great. Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, Mark Twain… the list goes on. It’s an exercise in nostalgia when I reread some of these quotes and rediscover how I originally felt. But you know what I’ve learned? The quotes don’t stick, because the words feel empty once they’re applied to my life. What the hell does Mark Twain know about me, anyway? How can I compare any personal struggles to those Martin Luther King Jr. conquered?

Some quotes have really stuck, though. But they’re the ones from the folks I’ve grown to love and trust more than I ever knew was possible.

It was a quote from my mom that sent me to college, in search of a way to change the dynamic of my family. One from my cousin told me to leave the small town where we grew up, and to establish a new foundation for myself. My uncle has a few blockbuster quotes etched into my mind, but there’s only one that I consistently grapple with each day.

“There’s a time to be a kid, and there’s a time to grow up. You’ll know when it’s time to make the change.”

He told me this in August 2007, after I quit a shitty part-time job so I could spend more time playing ultimate frisbee for the University of Missouri club team. I made the decision to supplement my grants, scholarships and loans with additional loans, rather than work 20 or more hours each week. My uncle seemed to agree with my decision back then, but it’s amazing how often comparable conflicts appear. Should I attend an expensive university and pay out-of-state tuition, or enroll in my hometown university and receive free tuition? Do I start a savings, or do I blow it on a study abroad program? You get the idea. I’m always required to hear that quote again and again.

I truly dream of actually having health insurance, no debt and a savings plan. Finding a solid job in an area with a low cost-of-living would be ideal. But throwing caution to the wind and heading to the west coast sounds a lot more attractive. If I can’t be a kid now, when can I be? But I can’t support myself unless I finally make the change that my uncle was talking about.

This isn’t exactly a new story; just look at Peter Pan, Benjamin Button or Tom Sawyer. But it’s my story, and it’s what I’m dealing with every day. I’m a recent graduate with a ton of debt and big dreams, and I’m somehow trying to live on both sides of that quote. I’ll find a way.

Welcome to #Life

Everyone has a story, and each story is just as and more interesting than the last.

What sets stories apart is the people who drive them, the people who live them. Interesting is everywhere, and this is a venture to find it.

#Life is a story blog about a cast of characters trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives. They will share the stories they are a part of as they try to find purpose and direction, and hopefully enough of a paycheck to leave money in the budget for beer. This is a story driven by curiosity, uncertainty and passion for life.

This is a story driven by people.

This is #Life.