Category Archives: College

I graduated from college TWO years ago

What?!

It’s hard to believe I graduated from college two years ago today. It’s also hard to believe I now live in Rapid City, South Dakota and work in the marketing department at a credit union.

While both the state and workplace are much cooler than you might initially think, they are definitely not places the wide-eyed recent Winona State University graduate could have imagined finding herself back in 2011.

When I was in college, I was going to have a job at a downhill skiing magazine in Colorado before I even graduated.

But a month into earning a degree, moving home, and living with my dad, I quickly learned life beyond academia is much more difficult than I anticipated.

From working in a cubicle-laden call-center to picking up a post-graduate internship, I found myself desperately clawing my way up my mountain of dreams.

Since graduating from college, I’ve learned the proverbial job ladder I aim to climb is steep and long, with rungs so far spread apart it’s sometimes difficult to lift your leg high enough to reach the next step.

And that first rung is positioned so far off the ground, it took me 16 months to wriggle my way up the side of the ladder before I could lob onto the step.

The past two years have led me on an interesting journey through strained phone conversations and uncomfortable interview hot seats.

Upon graduating, I sent my resume to more than 100 companies and endured 16 months of constant rejection. I would literally send out five resumes every night and hear back from no one. I became a pro at phone interviews. When I was invited for in-person meetings, I’d walk out of each office with a wide smile and high hopes, only to receive a crushing phone call or email days later stating that another candidate was chosen, ‘but we feel you have a bright future.’

(Once you hear you have a bright future more times than you can count on two hands, you begin to seriously question the validity of that statement).

I received one particularly overwhelming denial at the end of a lunch date with my aunt. I had let my hopes float so high that the job rejection brought me to tears in the middle of Panera– we’re talking runny nose, puffy eyes, and heaving sobs.

That was it. I reached my breaking point. You can only be told that someone more qualified than you got the job you wanted so many times before you can’t take it anymore.

And amidst all these rejections, I was subjected to what could possibly be the most awkward job interview ever.

At the time, I thought my call-center gig was due to expire. Desperate for a steady income, I applied to any job I deemed reasonable.

One of those jobs was a sales position with a Madison-based broadcast company.

I am not a saleswoman.  I would likely be more qualified to wrangle crocodiles.

Nevertheless, I put on my pseudo-confident persona, feigned interest for a sales position, and strode my way into unfamiliar territory.

Sometime between asking me run-of-the-mill interview questions and answering an unimportant phone call from her daughter IN THE MIDDLE OF MY INTERVIEW, the director of sales and something-or-other stopped me mid-sentence and told me I was not the woman for the job.

I was mortified. My face turned an unnatural shade of red and sweat began to pour from my pores. This, I assumed, is rock bottom. It’s one thing to receive rejections via phone or Internet, but facing rejection on the spot is particularly painful.

And then things got worse.

The saleswoman proceeded to tell me she read my blog post about getting a banana thrown at me on a city bus a decade earlier. She thought I seemed interesting and just wanted to meet me.

Ok?

She then proceeded to search the Internet for jobs in which I might be interested. All the while, the sweat that had been pouring from my pores was now pooling on my chair– I know it sounds disgusting, but put yourself in a super uncomfortable situation and see how your body reacts. It’s not pretty.

When the sales lady excused me from the interview from hell, I skipped the formalities and sprinted from her office.

Terrible as that interview was, it armed me with a newfound confidence. There’s no way any job interview could be worse than that, I told myself.

It was a handy mindset to have, as I still faced a year’s worth of rejections.

Throughout my journey, there’s a quote I’ve always looked to for inspiration.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

I love it. I think it’s perfect. And I couldn’t agree more.

While I haven’t completely ruled out living in snow-capped mountains and writing about professional skiers, I’m content with where I am now. Sometimes I pretend the Black Hills are mountains and it’s nice to finally have that elusive job ‘I went to school for.’

All I want to do is go to a townie bar

The afternoon sun hangs heavy in the sky as my roommates and I tromp down the steep steps of our apartment and out the door.  We quickly walk though the alley and chat about nothing before turning the corner and reaching our destination.

One of us pulls the lightweight screen door open with a snap before pushing in the heavier wood door and we file in to the dimly-lit room.

There’s something about arriving at a stale-smelling bar full of men three times your age in the middle of the afternoon that is all at once strange and comforting.

We find a group of four or five open chairs along the bar and take a seat on the tattered pleather as the beyond-middle-aged bartender confirms our usual drink orders and begins pouring.  Before I can remove my coat or cut from conversation, a screwdriver is placed in front of me.

It’s the simplicity of a worry-free weekend that lures us into that corner bar on a Saturday afternoon.  We don’t have weekend jobs, we don’t plan on starting our schoolwork until late Sunday evening, and we just can’t think of anything better to do when UV rays aren’t strong enough to spend the entire day at the beach.  So here we are, wasting our afternoons away.

Although we trudged through the weekday grind and complained about the stress  in our lives, Friday through Sunday afternoon will without fail leave us with nothing better to do than spend too much money on small strong drinks and chat with people who’ve been at the bar since 10 a.m.

Why is it that each proceeding stage in our life is more difficult than the previous?

I would give almost anything to travel through time and and stumble back to that barstool between my friends.  Not to to end up in a downtown college bar, but to be nestled among the townies of Winona, those who play Levon on the jukebox and whose conversations must be earned.  We would have left our apartment a few hours earlier with the intent of grabbing a single drink, which would almost always turn into “Oh my god, I think I’m drunk” after one drink turned into Well Butch bought us these drink tokens, we might as well cash them in or okay just one more, then I’m seriously going back home.

I want to pause my attempts at getting somewhere in life for a single Saturday afternoon and  randomly get drunk at 3 p.m. for no particular reason, surrounded by old adults who are too drunk to remember my name, but will always recognize my face.

I did it

(I officially got the email informing me that my degree had been posted, so this can now be published in confidence.)

Four and a half years of hard work, new experiences, difficult questions, life-changing decisions, lots of fun and a tiny bit of slacking have culminated in a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Winona State University.  When I moved to this tiny town in August 2007 as a Biology major with aspirations of becoming a dentist, I seriously doubted that I would ever receive a diploma from this institution then later doubted that I would ever receive a diploma, period.

It was by accident that I landed in Winona, Minnesota at Winona State University.  My parents refused to allow me to borrow over $100,000 in loans and attend school at the University of Colorado Boulder (a legitimate item on my 2007 Christmas list), my high school grades wouldn’t allow me in to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and attending college in my home state of Wisconsin was simply out of the question.

Unfortunately, WSU requires students to choose their dorms shortly after applying.  Assuming that I would never actually attend WSU, I  randomly prioritized my dorm choices in order of “buildings with the coolest names.”  Tau Center found it’s way to the top.  Turns out Tau is the smallest building, furthest away from the main campus.  And the co-ed dorm is filled with mostly single rooms and noisy boys.

Great, I thought.  I’m moving to a town that I’ve never even heard of before, with no one I know, and I’ll be holed up in a room by myself because I don’t know how to make friends.

In short, I was so wrong.

My first friend was Melissa Chase.  Missy was among the handful of fellow to-be-Warriors that befriended me on Facebook after I joined the Winona State University network and before I became selective with who I “friended.”  Our initial wall-to-wall conversations were primitive, to say the least, and when she popped her head into my dorm room on move-in day and introduced herself as my neighbor I think we mentioned that we had already “met” on Facebook (awkward).  But it’s because of Missy that I so enjoyed WSU.  She was my friend from day one.  She guilt-tripped me into staying at WSU and not transferring.  And she was so out-going she made friends for the both of us.

And I certainly was not holed up alone in my dorm room.  No, with the exception of two inhabitants, everyone on our floor befriended eachother.  We affectionately called ourselves Tau 3E, went to dinner in mass, created a Facebook group professing how cool we thought we were, drunkenly gathered in the lounge after a night out, and hung out in the hallway with our RA well past quiet hours.

Although (much to my surprise) my new social life was flourishing, I was quickly sinking in the academic department.  As has been the case since I was like seven, math and science weren’t my forte.  But even after failing and dropping two crucial classes, I couldn’t let my dentistry dreams dissipate.

I did eventually come to the conclusion that my poor grades could never carry me to dental school …and not everyone routinely brushes and flosses their teeth.  So I shifted my focus to marine biology, which is odd because I’ve had a life-long fish phobia and I’ve just recently overcome my fear of seaweed.  I guess the  the idea of a turquoise ocean being my “office” was too alluring.  Luckily this unrealistic dream lasted less than a semester.

So a year and a half into college, I had horrible grades and no idea what I was doing or where I was headed.  I was thisclose to dropping out.  Luckily my parents would have never allowed me to do such a thing and WSU gave me multiple chances to turn my academic career around.  And with a 180-degree turn I decided to pursue a dream I always had, but never previously considered.  Journalism.

It turned out to be a perfect fit; I love writing, conversing and learning.  Nevertheless even as a journalism student I had numerous hurdles to overcome, but embracing all things cliché… I had found my niche.

While some people breeze through college like it’s an extension of high school, I did not.  I struggled.  College was difficult for so many reasons, but against my own doubts, I did it.  I graduated.

Just before I took my final final as an undergraduate, I checked my email and was pleasantly surprised to find a new message from one of my aunts with the subject line “Deep Breath.”  My aunt Pam said she had been thinking about me and included a poignant congratulatory line.

“You should be very proud of your accomplishments,” she wrote,  “our family has been in this country over 100 years and you are the first to receive a four year degree.”

Lightening the mood in Syntax

Let’s preface this with the disclaimer: Although I adore writing and understand the importance of proper grammar and good sentence structure; I despise my English Syntax class.  When will I ever apply the knowledge that a gerund is placed on a bent line when diagramming a sentence?  Shot in the dark: um, never?  Nonetheless, I need this class to graduate– so, be it!

And one appended disclaimer: English majors are truly living in a world of their own.

Running on the fumes of a medium skim latte from six hours earlier, I walked in to a windowless classroom and began to mentally ready my mind for an English Syntax exam worth 40% of my grade that awaited me.  I sat in my usual desk at the back of the room and took out my looseleaf “study guide” in a last-ditch effort to squeeze the rules of adjectival, adverbial and nominal clauses into any remaining brain crevasse.  As I repeatedly reminded myself that subordinating clauses are adverbial, my ears found a welcome distraction in the conversation to my left.

(I can’t imagine where this chat began, but I do know that both of these ladies are English majors, so that explanation will just need to suffice.)

I half-listened as the longer-haired, more gothic one explained to her perkier friend how she had recently realized she could never survive a jail sentence because she couldn’t possibly live with only women for her entire life.  This comment intrigued me and I decided to forego last minute studying and devote my entire attention to their conversation.

Apparently the rest of the class also found this to be an eavesdrop-worthy conversation, because as the storyteller plainly wrapped up her explanation by saying, “and that is why I could never be a serial killer,” the room was silent.

Among the strained laughs and awkward side glances this final comment caused by everyone in class–including the straight-laced professor–my very favorite English-class redhead blurted what everyone else was thinking, “Wow, ” she said frankly, “that’s your only deciding factor?”

While the rest of the class seemed to see this whole exchange as normal and quickly returned to their serious pre-exam behavior,  I (in typical form) continued giggling to myself until the heavy exam was placed before me, thankful for the pre-exam amusement.