Saturday, July 28, 2012

My life... pt.2; perhaps with less grad school

So, lack of money is the primary motivator here. I will admit that I've become uncertain that I want to continue with grad school. However, were I still getting it completely paid for with grant money, I would most likely continue going. I am essentially half way done already. Though I did not take the proper number of credits to actually be half way done.... I would most likely have to throw on an additional semester, which doesn't seem to be entirely uncommon when working on your thesis anyway.
But, if I'm already uncertain about continuing with this, there seems to be no logical reason to keep going if, in order to do so, I would need to shell out the money and, subsequently, put myself into further debt. That's just not a smart choice no matter how you look at it.
So now I'm looking at no school and no job.... which is alright for a short period of time, but if I continue to be out of school I will eventually have to start paying on my student loans again. And, despite the fact that we're comfortable right now, financially speaking, we would not continue to be so if I had to start dishing out monthly student loan payments.
Subsequently, I have begun looking for a job. Though, truth be told, I think I would go crazy if I went without one much longer. I was so overwhelmed with school related stress over the past year that the sigh of relief I breathed upon the close of this past semester was enormous. Yet, I have barely gone 2 months now of "freedom" and I think I may go mad. This forces me to confront a new problem - well, not necessarily new, but long overlooked. I have nothing to offer in the job market. It's excruciating. I'm over-educated and under-experienced. A fact that became abruptly apparent last fall when I was declared 'ineligible' during the hiring process for CBP. The agent who was to be conducting my background checks questioned why a Penn State graduate was even applying for the position. I mean, thanks for the vote of confidence and all - frankly, I think I'm too smart to do this bullshit job also, but the job security is amazing and it looks pretty damn spectacular next to no job at all.
I'm also picky. I'm not going to go back to retail and I'm not going to take any old job just because I want a job. I know, I should be thankful that there are jobs out there, blah blah blah. I know. I don't care. There are always jobs out there. The fact of the matter is we often think we're too good to do the jobs that are available. Yes, I know I'm playing right into my own criticism.
However, I also know that, for the time being, I'm not desperate. I can afford to be choosy right now. Also, I have lessons learned from past jobs to look back on.... I know that if I take a position doing something which I don't enjoy or doesn't pay well, that I will most likely get stuck in that position for longer than I would like. It becomes much harder to actively pursue a better job if you're spending all of your time either working or being glad you're not at work. This is the perpetual cycle that I hate and am trying to avoid falling into. We work because we need to - we need money, for bills or to do other things we would enjoy. Then we spend all the time that we're not working spending that money - either on a vacation to "escape" work, on other toys/amusements, or on necessities. Then the money is gone and we must go back to work. This leaves us with a workforce that is constantly demoralized, and doesn't have to time or energy to concern themselves with social issues, the way our country is being run, etc. And all those other things go to shit, because the people who need to care (pretty much everyone) are too busy living their lives. We're all busy. All the time. There's no way not to be. And then, at the end of our lives, we look back and realize that we never did anything we wanted to do. We never tackled the big issues, chased our dreams, or took a chance. And I don't want to live that live. I know that now. I know that I need to do certain things in order to fit into the mold of productivity and I'm willing to accept that - to a certain extent. But I am not willing to give up everything and become a mindless machine, programmed to feed into the perpetuation of the system....
God, I've never sounded so 'conspiracy theory' in my life. The point is.... I want to be happy, I want to be successful. There are so many things that I want out of life.... I need to take those things, rather than let my life be taken (metaphorically) from me. I don't really know right now how exactly I'm supposed to go about it, but I know that it's not going to be easy. And I'm ok with that. I just might need a little help along the way.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My life as a grad student.... pt.1

Annually sounds like the proper frequency with which to publish blog posts, right? Oops, oh well. Derp.

What can I say? The past year has been a clusterfuck and I really don't know what the point of it all has been. I suppose I thought I knew at the onset of it all, but things have cascaded so far out of my control that I feel as though I've just been swept up in a storm of my own creation, gone rogue.

This time, last year, I was eagerly anticipating the beginning of grad school. Stars in my eyes; filled with wonder and peckish enthusiasm. At that time it seemed just one last step toward some grand achievement. The last rung on a ladder toward dreams long left out of reach and unfulfilled. However, my aspirations have always been scatter-brained, at best. And, now, I find myself more lost and confused than I was going into the graduate program.

The grad school recap is as such:
I wanted my Ph.D. Well, I would still like to get it, but now it seems more pointless than anything. Anyway, the goal upon entering grad school was to obtain my Ph.D. and seek work as a professor. It was a bit of a lofty goal, but it was something to work towards.
Everyone I encounter in life seems to have that one specific thing that they are working toward and, if they don't, they have nothing. I know that I have aspirations, that was never the problem. The problem is narrowing down those aspirations to one thing feels limiting and stifling. I feel like picking one thing to do with my life means that I have to abandon anything else that I ever loved.
So, the idea was that I would work toward my Ph.D. and then, once I had done some real work in my field, I would be able to think more clearly about my career options and make better, more informed decisions.
Well, the first problem arose when I didn't get accepted to a Ph.D. program. I did, however, get accepted to a M.A. program, and at this point in time it's become a 'better than nothing' 'beggars can't be choosers' sort of situation. Plus, I was going to get almost all my tuition paid for with a state grant. Even though the situation was not ideal, it was still the best thing I had going for me. I had quit working at Best Buy last May, upon discovering that they were assholes and hearing back on two other opportunities. The first of those "opportunities" never amounted to anything. The second was a position as a Teaching Assistant with the university. So school and T.A.-ing were the only things I had going on for me.... so, I went.
I was to be taking three graduate seminars and teaching three undergraduate discussion sections. I realized the first week of class that I was already in over my head. I dropped one of the seminars - a writing elective, and hit the ground running. Of my two remaining courses I had one that I had chosen out of genuine interest: political theory, and one that was a required course: statistics. Statistics is actually intended to be taken during one's third semester of graduate study, however, the mandatory, first semester course was full. Oh, joy. It begins.
As expected, I loved political theory, but hated statistics. Though I struggled with both. The reading load was intense, at best, and while I'm a moderately fast reader I have trouble retaining information unless I painfully trudge though the material; and painful it was, at times. On top of my own course work, I had T.A.-ing to deal with. This was relatively painless most of the time, but overwhelmingly time consuming. It amounted to showing up at each undergrad lecture, a weekly meeting with the professor, and my own three discussion sessions. I genuinely enjoyed the discussions and the experience of teaching. What I did not enjoy was sitting down to grade 90-ish tests and/or essays when it meant neglecting my own work. But this is what happened, more often than not. The way I saw it was, not only was I being paid to do my job as a T.A., but there were people that were counting on me to do it. And I've always been so dreadfully motivated by the desire to avoid disappointing others. If I neglected to get my own work done, I would be disappointing no one other than myself, and, strangely enough, I know how to cope with that. But if I didn't get my T.A. work done, I would be disappointing a lot of other people, and that I didn't want to deal with. So often I would focus my energies on things that needed done for my students in lieu of the work that would determine my grades.
The entire semester was wrought with stress and disappointment, but I came out of both courses with a 'B' and that's respectable enough.
Second semester, I rethink the T.A. business and decide to take a semester off. I felt as though I had been so busy throughout the entire fall semester that I never really got a chance to adjust to just being a graduate student. By this time, I may be too late. Three courses this semester. Two of which I enjoy immensely, aaaaand.... one mandatory, which I completely bombed. I end up with a 'D' in this course and struggle with the implications of the worst grade I've ever received in my life.
This, accompanied by the fact that I'm no longer receiving a large grant with which I am able to pay 95% of my tuition, causes  me to begin rethinking my course of action.

To be continued....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Foto Zeit!

A bunch of unedited randoms. Basically. I'm just trying to get myself back into actively posting by throwing a bunch of stuff on here. I'm going to put up an all Comic-Con post i the next few days, as well.

For now, these include experimentation with my new 50mm prime lens, our trip to Erie (non-wedding pics; wedding pics later), and my virgin hike at Lake Morena. Don't be confused, it wasn't virginal because I'd never hiked Lake Morena before - I hadn't, it was virginal because I had never hiked before. I knew, right? You're mind; it's just been blown. Don't worry; being blown is a good thing. ;)

Anywho, enjoy:

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Random pics

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Nighttime at the playground

Playing around with my new lens a bit. Playground at the park near my apartment. Unedited.

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Mission Beach photo day

Just some of my favorites caught while shooting near and around Mission Beach. All unedited, by the way. Though I may go through them and do a little bit of color optimizing and such later.

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