A MinD in MoTown

413 Harris Street, MoTown.

I sorted through the clothes that no longer fit or were too tattered to save. I packed the boxes of belongings I’ve had for years and those I recently purchased. I tossed food that lingered in my cabinets past expiration dates. I dusted, swept, polished and mopped an entire house just to bid it farewell.

But none of it felt the same as the other dozen times I moved in my life. Hell, it didn’t even feel the same as the last instance where I decided to share my residence with a boyfriend. This moment was much different, and I could pinpoint exactly why.

I was closing a chapter of my life — a two-year period based on independence — that held more importance than any other chapter before it. Sure, I have two diplomas to signify my college experience and albums filled with photos of those nearest and dearest to my heart. But that house and those walls, they were my security blanket, one that sheltered me as I changed and matured and developed from a confused post-grad with an uncertain path to a confident, organized, career-oriented person whose future had finally found clarity among the shades of grey.

Four hours into the move, with only a few boxes remaining but much cleaning to do, I stood in the center of my newly-bare living room talking to my mom and I completely broke down. I hadn’t wanted to move, but it wasn’t because of the situation at hand; it was because the house meant more to me than a place to live and leaving it behind carried more weight than the thousands of pounds of luggage I carried to my new home.

I moved into that humble abode on Harris Street in March 2008 following a breakup with my boyfriend of three years. He returned to Pennsylvania and I was suddenly left in MoTown, 600 miles away from everyone I knew only one year beforehand. I was living on my own, with the exception of a small and furry black roommate who only became a member of my tiny family days beforehand. I owned little more than a TV, futon, desk and kitchenware at the time, and had dealt with nothing but my credit card bills up to that point. At the age of 22, I was forced to learn how to budget my finances to ensure survival from day to day without seeing gas, electric or water services cease. I juggled being a new “mom” to my Sophie, teaching her not to pee in the house and not to eat my shoes, with two jobs. I cooked for one, cleaned for one, grocery-shopped for one… I learned who I was simply by taking care of myself, my household, my dog. The independence came easily, though the transformation within was masked.

And as I stood there in the empty room, my belongings en route to another town and a new residence, the swift realization of how much growth those walls saw in me and my life was overwhelming. The tears were inevitable so I let them flow for a few minutes before wiping them away and picking up the mop to clean another floor.

I’d lived in apartments before, lived with a boyfriend before, lived in a new town before, but this move was different because I was different. I wasn’t that same girl who was nearly homeless in a barely-known state two years ago, or the carefree new post-grad who moved to NC, or even the frightened yet eager college junior moving into her first apartment with friends in State College, PA; I was a real adult with life under her belt, ready to take on the next experience knowing that if it failed, I could make it on my own because I had done it before.

To everyone else, I was moving onto better things, leaving a small house in a mediocre part of town for a lakeside apartment in an upscale neighborhood. To me, I was turning the page onto a new adventure, looking back on the last one and seeing how those years and those four walls of my former home shaped every day henceforth.

It was more than a two-year residence. That house, humble little 413 Harris Street, was where I became me and although I’m not leaving that girl behind, it’s still a bit tough to bid adieu to the place that allowed her to emerge.

SAT, the steroid edition.
December 17, 2009, 7:33 pm
Filed under: School daze, When I grow up

T-minus 14 hours and 40 minutes.

At 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, I’ll begin the daunting GRE. Sure, I’ve studied. And yes, I’ve taken a few practice exams and worked through my fair share of mock questions. But my confidence is mediocre, at best, despite my academic future riding on this one exam.

Okay okay, perhaps that’s a bit on the hyperbolic side. But at $150 a pop, I can’t exactly afford to take this test again. It’s now or never.

Taking this GRE is a huge step forward toward my decision to head back to school for my Master’s degree. I might have two Bachelor of Arts degrees, but as the economy worsens and jobs become increasingly scarce – not to mention the complete transformation of the news industry, which I’m currently in – it’s evermore clear that a simple higher education is no longer enough. A “higher” higher education is practically required to get ahead in this world and that means I swiftly need to plant my ass in a graduate program.

It was May when I first decided that I’d attempt grad school, but I didn’t begin thinking about it seriously until several months later. Then nearly two months ago, I firmly chose to apply to UNC Charlotte’s communication studies graduate program, aiming to focus on mass media studies. I had no cash to take the GRE, so I started saving … and studying on occasion … in the hopes of taking the exam before Christmas. Two weeks ago I broke down and typed in my credit card number as I registered for the test, still without the financial means. But the test simply HAD to be taken prior to January, as my completed application – GRE scores included – are due by Feb. 1.

And now, the moment has arrived. I’m still debating whether or not to study some tonight, hoping to cram a few last minute tidbits into my brain before the morning.

To say I’m terrified of doing poorly would be an understatement. With so much seemingly riding on this one exam, the pressure to succeed is quite high. And while I had previously believed math would be my biggest weakness on test day, my practice sessions are proving that my verbal skills are lacking while my math abilities come with little effort (of course, that’s after a few hardcore days of refreshing my memory about geometry, algebra, etc.). How am I to know words like “mawkish,” “laconic,” “ebullient” (and so on) when they remain far from my everyday vocabulary?

Then there’s the analytical writing section, and while I somewhat worry about stumbling upon a topic that’s far less than appealing, my confidence there has stayed intact. After all, if I can’t do well on this portion of the test, something is seriously wrong with my current chosen profession.

I’m heading into this test with my nerves on edge, my abilities uncertain and my hopes somewhere between high and ambiguous. At times like these, the realist in me emerges and challenges any assumptions I previously might’ve held about how smart I am, especially when practice tests tell me otherwise.

All I know right now is 12:30 p.m. tomorrow cannot come soon enough (it’s a four hour test!). I’m certainly ready to get this damn thing over with and finally breathe a sigh of relief that it’s behind me. For now, however, I’m going to (maybe) study a little this evening and attempt to relax before practically throwing myself at the mercy of stupid standardized testing.

…Wish me luck!

My Barbie lunchbox was better than yours.
May 13, 2009, 1:44 pm
Filed under: I am a dork, When I grow up

It’s easy to look back on college and say, “what a friggin’ ride,” nostalgic for the experiences (i.e. Thirsty Thursdays, getting my tongue pierced, regularly walking four-miles home completely intoxicated, etc.). And as a result, it’s fairly normal to wish you could relive those years rather than succumbing to the responsbilities of growing up.

But for many, it’s not so commonplace to recall those memories and also long for the lecture halls, homework, routine class assignments and overall education. Some of us, including myself, seemingly miss more than the “college experience”; we remember the six-pound Shakespeare textbook, the group projects, the two-hour analytical critiques and the studying, and yearn even moreso for those four-years we already left behind.

I attended a Newspaper Academy, hosted by the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Press Association, last Friday in Chapel Hill. It was not something mandated by my publication, nor was it something my editor strongly recommended. It was an opportunity he placed on my desk that I eagerly jumped toward.

It’s been two years since my college graduation – damn, how time flies! – and in the back of my mind, I’ve always known how much I missed my years at Penn State, and not just for the crazy moments. It was more than my friends, my apartment, my free weekends and my far-fewer responsibilities I fondly recalled, but those days spent in the classroom, learning.

Since I was two years old, I’ve been that nerdy girl interested in school. With a lunchbox in hand, I’d prance around the house, asking my mother, “Can I go to school now?” My unfaltering anticipation led my parents toward enrolling me in a pre-preschool so their little girl could finally begin her school years.

Each summer, I’d impatiently wait for August when I could fill my backpack with school supplies and delve back into the books. Once my birthday passed in mid-July, it was nearly impossible for me to enjoy the rest of my summer because I so badly wanted to return to class. (Huge dork, I know.) And even now – as a 23-year-old with a full-time job, part-time job, way too many bills, responsibilities, hardly any free time, etc. – I cannot get the thought of heading back to college out of my brain. Friday’s day-long workshop at UNC simply cemented how much I miss learning and working toward a greater goal. Being in those lectures, taking notes, wandering around campus for a photojournalism course, all of those things truly narrowed my college nostalgia to my education, rather than just the fun I had.

So despite being $50,000 in the hole with the student loans I already have, I’m weighing my options and seriously considering either attaining my masters (something pertaining to social media) or working toward my third B.A. degree (in French). I’ve yet to decide which, and hell, I’ve yet to take my GRE which is a bit necessary if I’d like to be accepted by a university (probably UNC-Charlotte). I’m moving slowly with this newly-discovered desire, but I guess this realization was a long time coming. Thoughts of becoming a student again have danced in my head since I turned my tassel, but either myself or others have repeatedly convinced me that it was the life I led from 2003-2007 that I missed and not the learning experience.

On Friday, at UNC, those notions were swiftly proven wrong.

The recession has increased my vocabulary.
February 19, 2009, 5:53 pm
Filed under: News Girl, Such a quandry, When I grow up

Only a year ago, words/phrases such as recession* and stimulus were not common terms in my everyday vernacular. To be honest, I’d say my daily babble was filled with “like” and “riiiight” as if I were still 15 years old. But the slumping economy has modified the chatter escaping my mouth and, unfortunately, yesterday allowed George W. Bush’s financial fiasco (check out the alliteration folks!) to hit far closer to home than I would have preferred.

The media company I work for has put into effect mandatory furloughs, which in essence means for 10 weeks through this fall, my paycheck will decrease by 20 percent as I am forced to take 10 unpaid days off from my newspaper job. Bummer, huh?

For a long time, it seemed as though my company cunningly escaped much of the drama occurring at other news outlets across the country. As I watched other reporters cave into promises of buyouts or receive their pink slips as they tightly held onto their careers, I only somewhat feared the same happening to me. Some part of me never truly succumbed to the thought that I, a journalist with less than two years of “real world” experience under her belt, could face the same fate.

And although my job security truly isn’t in question at the moment – another story for another time – my wages remain in jeopardy. I’m low man on the totem pole and if I didn’t have a second income regularly reaching my wallet, this 8-hour-weekly-loss could significantly affect my bill-paying abilities. But I luckily have that supplemental income and while losing cash money is never ideal, I can manage.

Then I look around my office at those who I’m certain will feel this monetary pinch a bit more painfully than others. The single mothers or the ones helping to support their parents. The individuals at this newspaper who have more than an overly-hyper puppy depending on them. They are the ones who will suffer as a result of this weakened economy and tighter budgetary constraints throughout my particular company. They are the ones who don’t have a means for recouping those funds. They are the ones who will have to decide “this or that” when figuring out where the monies need to go and what items or luxuries they can now forego.

And maybe 10 days doesn’t seem like much. Perhaps it’s a drop in the bucket to some. But when you are living paycheck to paycheck, a $100 loss is significant, not to mention $1,000+ over a year’s time.

What I do fear, however, is that this is simply a sign of things to come within not just my industry – because clearly the news business has had an ominous future for quite some time – but the specific company I work for. So many other journalism titans have fallen when faced with the same challenges, and it sadly seems only a matter of time before my humble paper becomes another victim of bankruptcy due to the wavering economy. And with my brief experience and lack of daily-newspaper knowledge, the likelihood of finding another reporter position elsewhere seemingly appears nonexistant.

Despite my love for this business and my absolute joy to have a career where I spend every day writing – something I would prefer to keep doing even if it meant making nickels as my salary – I’m foreseeing the end as nearer than I had previously imagined. I see the bottom finally falling out and me left with approximately $1,700 in bills each month and attempting to pay them on a waitress’ meager wages and unguaranteed tips.

For me and my career, it feels like a journalism apocalypse. My options are to hang tight for the ride to unemployment or jump ship while I still can. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer to close my eyes and remain on board for the journey, but I’m thinking it might be safer to go overboard and see where I land.


* I’ve decided to bold all of the words that are “new” to my vocabulary as if this were a 7th grade homework assignment. And by “new,” I simply mean words that I’ve always known, but never in my life had to use until the almight GW got a hold of this country and turned it to shit, forcing us into a downward economic spiral.**
** This is my first time utilizing footnotes and I was so dorkily (not a word) excited, I had to create two. Have I mentioned how lame I am before? If not, I am and you have been warned.

Twenty-five (as seen on Fbook).

Like most of you who also navigate the pages of Facebook, my lovely friends – three of them – tagged me in the “25 things” meme. I knew it would happen sooner or later as I watched the note trickle from friend to friend, and then three times in 24 hours.

(I was starting to get a little nervous, however, that nobody cared enough to tag me. How sad is that? I was actually relieved, to an extent of course, when a friend I’ve known since my elementary school days finally did. Talk about a sigh of relief for not being the last girl picked in dodgeball.)

Seeing as many/most of you aren’t my friends on the book-of-Face, I thought I’d post my list here and give you fine folks some more insight into yours truly.

1. I got my most recent tattoo on a whim. While at work one day, waiting for phone calls to be returned, I decided to walk half a block to the downtown tattoo parlor and inquire about prices for some Beatles lyrics on the back of my neck. He gave me a quote and asked if I wanted it right then. Instead, I waited two hours – ’til work was actually over, of course – and went back to get it done, then headed to my other job about an hour later.

2. Peppers, onions, celery (there’s more, I’m sure) are all foods I don’t eat simply because of their texture.

3. I’ve had a LiveJournal since I was about 15 and can sadly look back on literally the last eight years of my life. Sometimes I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

4. I hate when people tell me I should attend their church. Yes, I know I live in the south and church is a pretty big deal, but not only did I grow up Catholic, I also haven’t gone to a single mass since eighth grade. I have no desire to change that any time soon.

5. Despite that, when I have kids (no time in the near future), I’d like to take them to church and create that foundation. Then, when they are old enough, they can decide for themselves what they want to believe and whether they want to continue being a Catholic (’cause I definitely won’t be bringing them up under another faith). I think some sort of religious foundation as a child helps foster a good moral base as one becomes an adult, even if that faith is no longer of much importance.

6. And while on the topic of religion, I loathe people yelling at me for saying “god damn” or taking the Lord’s name in vain. I like saying it and don’t tell someone else to do so for my pleasure, so I’d rather people not tell me not to say it for their sake.

7. (Moving on from religion, finally…) When I moved to NC, I was more saddened about leaving my friends behind than my family. Now that I’ve been gone for nearly two years, it’s my family I miss the most and I almost feel guilty for not feeling that way from the start.

8. I’ll never move back to Pennsylvania. Maybe I’ll move close – NYC perhaps, or Maryland/DC – but Pennsylvania will remain in the rearview mirror for me.

9. I went to a comedy show with my family and my parents’ friends over Christmas and the main comedian did rather poorly. I felt so bad for him that I’ve perused his Web site several times hoping to discover some glimmer of hope that comedy isn’t his only job or that people outside of Scranton actually think he’s funny. His name was Lord Carrett and his buisness card is on my work desk.

10. My cheeks and ears turn red sometimes for absolutely no reason. They are right now, and I don’t know why.

11. I love that people in the South are polite. I’m big on my “please and thank yous,” so it’s pretty refreshing after always encountering rude people up north.

12. Onto more fun things, on my 21st birthday, I passed out in a fraternity lawn. This was after several shots, beers and one blue monkey bowl that tasted like a pixie-stick. After waking up on the grass and getting into my friend’s car, I proceeded to puke all over the outside. And despite it all, and the hangover that Sunday, it was a fabulous day.

13. If you asked me how many girls I’ve kissed, I couldn’t answer you. Have I done anything more? Never. But lots of kissing and with quite a few girls I only remember as “that short red head” and “you know, the brown-haired girl.”

14. Throughout my entire high school career, I thought the guy who had the locker next to mine freshman year was THE hottest boy to ever walk the halls of West Side. I still think that, and he is def my friend on Fbook (and I only slightly hope he doesn’t recall where his locker was that school year).

15. I always knew I wanted to be “a writer,” but it took working for a monthly publication, Voices of Central Pennsylvania, in college to realize I wanted to be a journalist. And now that the entire industry is failing and my job is likely to eventually disappear from underneath me, I have no idea if I can ever just be “a writer” again.

16. The first dance I will have with my husband – whoever that might be – has to be “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles. If he’s not okay with that, he’s not “the one” as far as I’m concerned.

17. In 9th grade, I waited hours in line to have Pink sign my CD at the Steamtown Mall. I also took a picture of her with one of those Polaroid sticker cameras. Oh man was I awesome!

18. I’m not attracted to southern guys. And I don’t know how, but I somehow managed to find a native New Yorker (the state, not the city) to date here in MoTown, and I absolutely love him.

19. My left sock has to go on first. But my right shoe has to go on first. Left sock, right sock, right shoe, left shoe. Or I feel completely out of whack the majority of my day.

20. I was going to get my tongue pierced on a Wednesday, but the guy told me it’d be $10 cheaper the next day as a “Thirsty Thursday” special … so I waited.

21. I’m a little creeped out by the thought of having a person growing inside me. It won’t be happening for several more years ::knock on wood::, but feeling a living thing in there definitely makes me cringe a bit.

22. I fall asleep on the couch almost every single night. If I make it to bed before 4 a.m., I’ve done well. Purchasing an $800 bed was ridiculous considering how many nights I pass out watching TV in the living room then never make it the 20 feet to my bedroom before morning.

23. Me and the Postal Service (the USPS, not the band) have a love/hate relationship. While I love getting mail from friends or family, I hate every other piece of mail. All of it. It piles up gradually and when about two to three months worth of mail is taking up a significant piece of space in my living room, I go through it all and toss the majority of it. If they reduce mail services to only five days, as they’ve been talking about, I’ll be ecstatic … even though that might mean I wait four months before rummaging through the pile.

24. Female masturbation kinda creeps me out. I can talk about or listen to anything sexual except girls masturbating. Several female friends have made fun of me, a lot, because I’ll literally walk away from a conversation if chicks start talking about dildos and vibrators, etc. Definitely not a topic of choice for me.

25. When in college, I decided to start growing my hair long because I wanted to have long braids when I put my hair in pigtails.