Domain to Expire

WordPress has been sending me notifications that my domain is going to expire. I must Renew or the default address of qtrlifer.wordpress.com will take over. I’ve decided to let it expire.

This blog with a small audience has been a good place for me to write from time to time. Honestly, it’s served a bit of a different role than I thought it would. I thought that by writing I might appeal to others going through similar experiences, but, in practice, this turned out to be more of a self-serving place for me. I wrote less than I expected, sometimes overthinking the content and what I wanted to put out there, on the internet. That probably resulted in posts that appealed less to other people and potentially didn’t fulfill the reflective role it could have for me. It’s kind of in this in between place. going forward, I’ll probably continue to write, but maybe I’ll make a new site too.

I created this site right around my 25th birthday. At the time, I had just about committed to graduate school and planned on leaving my full time job. I followed through on all that and am about to graduate from my master’s program in May. This week I turned 27, and so I feel a bit removed from the quarter-life label; a friend and I talked on my birthday a bit about how this age is definitely the late twenties. I’m excited to see what comes in the next two years, but that chronicling may or may not happen here.

Part of why I think I’ll keep the default WordPress URL, which will switch on March 30th, by the way, is because I like the Reader function and seeing what my friends who also blog are putting out there. While we keep in touch in other ways, I hope they continue to write too.

That’s all for now. I guess this email is just an FYI, for those of you who may read this. You may not even notice the transition, if this is in your reader. I’m not so sure. Sort of like that in between place regarding content, I don’t really know how the URL, the blog, the content affects the readers.

See you on the other side.

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Back from Break

Thin walls bring in all
the smells and all the cold
 
Smoke mostly
and mostly you get used to it
But first the sensation gets the better of you
anger, frustration, why?
 
But you remember other
neighbors, Loud, worse
and you think of what
it could be
 
You remember.
 
The wick waits.
Light it and wait
until mostly you don’t remember
those first few breaths

Year-End Wrap-Up Post

A friend suggested writing a year-end wrap-up post, and I was a little apprehensive thinking it was so cliche. I kind of forgot about it but then got to see the longtime friend over the weekend and remembered the conversation. I’ve decided the reflection could be nice. So here goes, a little late and a lot cliche, my year in review.

Winter
Around this time last year, I was, somewhat hastily, applying for NODA internships. For those reading unfamiliar with NODA, it’s a professional organization that focuses on orientation programs at higher education institutions. A lot of people I knew in my graduate program had participated in the NODA internship program in the summer between their first and second years of school. To be a successful job candidate when in the full time job search, I thought I should do it too. As I indicated, I was somewhat hasty in the application process and after reflection, I realize I did not prioritize it. My heart was not in it and that probably revealed itself in my application. Maybe at another point in the future, I will feel more impassioned toward that part of the student affairs field, but, as it were, I got little response to my application. Honestly, it was more than a little disappointing the day hosts could reach out to candidates and I heard nothing while many peers were contacted. The experience made me reflect and take the time to discern what I wanted to do with my summer. It was around this time I wrote my post about journaling vs. blogging, considering a lot about what should be shared in the public space and what should be kept to yourself, especially regarding career decisions.

Spring
Besides the looming summer, I also spent my spring in classes and taking on another job. That job, called a practicum, unpaid internship, internship for credit, or what have you, was an awesome experience in which I helped plan and advised students working on the 12th annual Banff Mountain Film Festival in Bloomington. It was so rewarding for weeks of work, that also started over the winter break time period, to culminate in a weekend of films that was so much more than that. It brought together a community of people passionate about the outdoors and outdoor sports. The films and the event were so inspiring.

In the spring, I was also enrolled in what we simply call the diversity course, though the official title is a bit more complex. A big part of the course was a group project in which we looked at actual issues involving marginalization on our campus and explored them further. We presented to the class a couple of times: midway through the semester to share our project topics and again toward the end to show our progress. In the end, we wrote a report that we submitted to the professor. In my experience, the project was a beast. Besides some challenging group dynamics, my group made the project difficult in that we opted to look at a group that marginalizes others rather than focusing on a group that is marginalized. That decision made for inherently difficult conversations in class, in that we pointed at a group saying, “You are marginalizing these other people” instead of the other projects, which pointed to a group and said, “See how this group is marginalized.” In the end, we pushed through and, in my opinion (and professor’s, at least to some extent), created an output of a high quality report.

That same professor that pushed my group along in the project also helped me with the summer decision. She did not give me answers but asked questions that helped me think more clearly about my decision. I applied to the ACUI internship program, again a program created by a professional organization in a sub-field of student affairs. ACUI is focused on college student unions and through the program I secured my role at Emory University for the summer.

On top of all this academic work and the career moves, I trained for my first half marathon. Here’s some of my thoughts on it, halfway through training, and below I’ve inserted a picture after I finished the race in May. Those of us in the group who ran are wearing our medals and the others are our friends and family who came to cheer for us. Knowing that they were waiting for us at certain parts of the run was great motivation when I wanted to stop.

Mini Marathon 2014

Summer
I started my summer by visiting Chicago for a few weeks. I stayed with my boyfriend and enjoyed my free time. Before heading off to Atlanta, we also got to attend the wedding of some good friends. I literally left the day after their wedding, so my car was packed and waiting in the hotel parking lot with my bike on the back, ready for adventures.

The summer in Atlanta was the first time I was away from the Midwest for a significant amount of time. Although I’ve enjoyed being less than a half day’s drive from my family for basically all of my life, I enjoyed the liberation of being so far away. It is not that the family constrains me, per se, but I appreciated the definite separation and room for my independence to flourish. Initially, I had no friends in Atlanta and found them through commonalities, meeting people at the gym or other interns working at the university. With a very short commute, I worked full time yet had all my nights and weekends free for myself.

I enjoyed my work and built some good relationships with people there. Also, returning for the moment to the present, especially with the negative single digit temperatures we are having now, I like to remember the warmth. Here’s a picture from the job, when we had a Latin conference in the building (hence, the costume).

Emory internship

Over the course of the summer, my mom and my boyfriend visited on separate occasions. I liked showing them around and also exploring the city with them. Below is a picture from Stone Mountain, that I hiked with each of them. My boyfriend both drove down there and back up with me, for which I will be forever grateful.

Stone Mountain

Fall
This fall I started the second (and last) year of my graduate program. As I anticipated in a post written early in the semester, I wrote much less frequently in the fall semester. What did I do in this last semester?

I prioritized spending time with my friends. Most weeks I went to team trivia with a group of them. I also went up to Chicago a number of times, for fun stuff like running the hot chocolate 5k with my mom and her boyfriend (their first organized race!) and career related stuff like a regional ACUI conference. Both kinds of situations were about connecting with people and also doing what I wanted.

School was good with a big group project but also a bit of a change in dynamics, since only one course I took was required for all of those in the second year in my program (as opposed to two in the previous semesters). I also took 4 classes instead of the typical courseload of 3. One of the courses was purely online with no other students from my program, so in that way, I especially got the sense that many of us were becoming more specialized in our academic pursuits. This summer, talking with graduate students in other students affairs programs, I learned that mine is somewhat unique in the requirement to take electives and courses outside of our academic department. I appreciated that for my own learning but also for the interpersonal benefits. I enjoy being close with many people in my cohort, but I think that the opportunity to be apart helps us grow and see beyond the kind of bubble that can develop in such a tight-knit group.

Winter
And now, we are back to Winter. It’s so frigid and cold but, in the stillness, things are changing. My boyfriend is between jobs, starting a new adventure for himself, and opening my options for my future. I am starting the job search and going back to school for the final semester of graduate school.

Over the course of my nearly month-long winter break, I’ve gotten the chance to connect with and visit with lots of friends. I’ve noticed my high school (in fact, mostly from junior high school) friends are different from my friends in Chicago. The Chicago friends are different from my friends in graduate school and overlap a bit with college friends. These different groups of people interact with each other from time to time but are mostly distinct. I wonder about my role in each group and how I want to situate myself. One family member said over (a boozy part of) the holidays that you are who you surround yourself with. Since I hate ending sentences with a preposition, the thought to ponder is, “With whom do I want to surround myself?” Applying the thought to the future, I could take it even further and consider my time away in Atlanta and think about going rogue and exploring on my own; and then, do I even need to be in a new geographical place to do so? Since I started with a cliche, I might as well end with one as well. That is, in the student affairs world, something I frequently hear preached is that we should be authentic. I guess in this upcoming season and year of change, that’s the goal. Here’s to 2015, full of change and authenticity.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Goodness! It’s been well over a month (almost two) since I posted on here. Again.

At some point I had, and even now, in the back of my mind, I still have, a goal to publish here once a week. The day I started this draft (a few weeks ago) a friend in my graduate program, a first year student, said she wants to post on her blog once a week. In my mind, I wished her good luck and remembered this goal of mine.

I have been writing in my journal a lot lately. I also feel as if this post is turning a little bit into one I wrote way earlier this year. In fact, I’ve almost filled that notebook with journaling, and, coincidentally, my mom recently gifted me a new journal. It has a picture of a bicycle on it, and I like it a lot.

Anyway, I’m about to turn this post into a non-philosophical musing and tell you about my recent pumpkin creation. Sure, it’s basic in a couple of senses, but like my friend here, I’m going to own that aspect. I feel as if this year in particular, ever since I had a pumpkin smoothie at this new coffee shop in town, I’ve been a bit obsessed with trying to reunite with that flavor. I’ve tried many times and still haven’t recreated that smoothie experience. In the meantime, today, I made pumpkin oatmeal. I’m not sure this picture does it justice, but here it is – in my color-changing Quaker oatmeal bowl from childhood, green to yellow when heated.

Yum.

Yum.

Ingredients

– 1/4 cup quick “one-minute” oats (from a giant Kroger brand canister, here)

– 1/2 cup water

– dash of salt

– many shakes of cinnamon (probably about at least a tsp)

– 1/4 cup raisins

– 2-4 heaping tablespoons of pumpkin, to taste (used Libby brand, from a can)

– a couple of shakes of pumpkin pie spice

– 2 tsp of brown sugar

– 1/4 cup milk

– a small handful of crushed walnuts (maybe 1/4 cup, I have halves and literally crushed them in my hand)

Steps

Combine oats, water, salt, cinnamon, and raisins in microwavable bowl and heat for about a minute. Spoon in pumpkin and add pumpkin pie spice on top. Heat for about another minute. Pour milk on top, crush walnuts, and sprinkle brown sugar. Stir and enjoy.

Through the heating, the raisins will get plump, and the combination of milk and pumpkin will be an almost creamy texture. The whole thing is quite a bit cinnamon-y, so if that’s not your thing, consider yourself warned. I transferred the rest of the pumpkin to a container in the fridge with the goal of attempting the smoothie amazingness again later.

You might have noticed, I took the picture from my desk, and there is my tabbed APA style guide sitting there… it’s nearly the end of the semester, so it’s a busy time here. Back to studying I go.

Rejection is no fun

Last week I hired a new person for my team at work. Exciting, right? That person sounded very excited to hear from me and accept the offer for the position. I was excited to offer the role and fill the position on my team. I was not so excited about telling other applicants we were not hiring them. Hence, the title for post. Rejection is no fun.

I don’t want to go into specifics of this situation but, instead, talk more generally on the challenges of the hiring process. When I am seeking a new hire for my team, I want to interview as many applicants as seem to have potential to be a good fit. As I’m going through that process, I’m conscious of the fact that I will have to reject many of them. I want to find the best person for the role, but I don’t like the rejection part.

All of us, at some point or another, have been in the applicant’s shoes, wanting a specific job. Sometimes in interviews you can tell right away if a job is a good fit or not. Sometimes you can’t tell. Much of the time, I think I feel convinced I am perfect for the role, through the process of filling out an application, writing a cover letter, thinking through and answering interview questions, and writing a thoughtful thank you note. Then, I wait. I think about it. Rehash the interview conversation in my mind. Wonder what I did right, what I could have done better. And wait.

When I am on the other side of the table, both literally and figuratively, I think about all of those feelings. I remember checking my email, anxiously looking for that message. Will I be rejected?

That’s exactly why I say rejection is no fun. The hiring process involves this rejection aspect that is both difficult for the hiring person and the job applicant. Sure, I see value in the situation. It’s nice to have closure (Is it worse to never hear from the company? Probably.) It’s good to learn from the situation and get more interview practice. It’s probably even a nice stroke to the ego, if you get to the point of the interview. From the interviewer side, it’s helpful to clarify the role and ensure you give the role to a person who fits in the position.

I think what’s especially hard on both sides of the interview table is that at some level everyone wants to be liked. The interviewer wants the job to be attractive and wants to attract great applicants. The applicant, even if he or she doesn’t want the job, probably wants to be liked and get an offer, at least have the opportunity to choose the role rather than get rejected.

As I’ve been going through the last week with the new hire, I’ve been thinking a lot about the term fit. I think that a better way to cope with rejection is to consider your feelings within this framework of fit. Either you were or weren’t the best fit for the role, or someone else was a better fit. It takes some of the feelings, the personal aspect of the rejection out of the equation. Perhaps, I’m just rationalizing it, but I think it’s a good mindset to consider when I’m back on the other side of the table in just a few months, looking for my next full time job.

Second Week of Second Year

The end of today means I’ve wrapped up my second week of my second (and final) year of grad school. I helped welcome the incoming cohort of students in my program by sending them informational emails over the summer and planning their orientation. Their presence on campus is one reminder of how I’m no longer a new student living in a new town. It’s very different.

Unlike last year, when I felt both enthusiastically excited and uncomfortably alone, I now feel much more familiarity toward what is to come. I have a friend group and know how to get around. I can predict (or my phone can tell me) my commuting traffic patterns and when is a good time to drive and find a campus parking spot or when it is better to bike (almost always the latter). I somewhat understand expectations of the professors and good habits for getting everything done.

What I don’t know is what next semester will bring, as I go into the job search. I also don’t know where my friends will end up in 8 months.

It’s all very different, and I’m getting lots of questions about what I want to be doing in that time frame. What kind of job do I want?

To answer that best, I feel as if I need to supplement all the things I said I know and am familiar with and, instead, take some risks and try out some new stuff. I should gain some more experiences and try to take advantage of some unique opportunities that grad school makes possible. There are internships and volunteer opportunities that fit with a student schedule and organizations that support learning in those ways. I’m now more aware of what those are.

At the same time, I want to hang out with my friends and enjoy this last chunk of time together. A wise friend who graduated last year warned me that their will be lots of “this will be the last time for us to do …xyz.. together” with the cohort. She advised to avoid getting caught up in all of that and doing what I need for me. I hope I can remain mindful of that as I prioritize my time.

It’s a busy time, so I anticipate less writing here, but who knows?

Namaste, Y’all

.. says my yoga instructor. Not really that exact phrase, but she has a Southern accent and definitely greets us all with a “Hi, y’all” at the start of each class. I love it each time, as it surprises me a little bit in comparison to all the past yoga classes I’ve taken. As my friends who read this know, I hail from the the Midwest, and this summer interning in Atlanta, Georgia, is my first time living outside of that region. I hoped that moving to the South would provide me with some new perspectives and challenge my worldviews. One example of that happening is the reaction I have in hearing the contrast of y’all compared to my expectations and assumptions of what practicing yoga is (that is, honestly, perhaps something associated with either Indian or Yuppie culture, but probably not Southern).

I think, and maybe hoped, that I’d experience great dissonance in my experience here. I expected to be in more situations when I was not part of the racial majority in the room. I expected to hear more conservative viewpoints on a regular basis. I really wanted to be taken out of my comfort zone.

I haven’t exactly experienced what I expected. That is, a lot of what I’ve been experiencing in my last 7 weeks here is sort of like the yoga example –  mostly similar to past experiences with occasional elements of surprise.

Some of it may be because I’m working and living in a college environment that attracts people from all over the country and even internationally. Or maybe I feel this way because my expectations were based on (false?) assumptions of the South would be like. Overall, I don’t have as many feelings of being uncomfortable as I expected, and I’ve been enjoying my time here.

Today is the first weekend day that I can recall where it’s been gray and rainy outside, so I’ve taken this time to reflect on the summer experience thus far. I don’t know if it’s an effect of summertime, campus culture, region of the country, or something within me (or a combination of these things), but I generally feel stress-free and happy here. I live in close proximity to my work and then gym, so I don’t need to drive most days, if I don’t want to. Through the group fitness classes at the gym, I’ve made friends who are also interning in the area and live in the same complex I do. With the nice weather and the friends, I’ve got to explore quite a bit of Atlanta.

I’ve enjoyed going to a few different neighborhoods, hiking and biking outdoors, and trying lots of different food places. Although I love the Chicago area, where I come from, I’ve been thinking that Atlanta would potentially be a nice place to live. One of my least favorite characteristics of Atlanta is the way it seems most people drive most places, and therefore there’s quite a bit of traffic in the city. Part of that is due to neighborhoods being spread out, and that causes there to be a lot more green space than I expected. I enjoy that part, so I guess it’s not all good or bad.

I’m going to close with a real life quote from the yoga instructor today. It made me smile, but I’d like to think it’s less because of the surprise but more because of how genuine she sounded when she said it. She shared some joy when she ended the class with, “Namaste. Good work, y’all.”