Posts Tagged ‘Fordham’

One Week in Mexico

March 24, 2010

There comes a day in every journalism student’s life when they get in over their heads.

Mine came last week.

As part of my graduate program, I’ve spent the last four months working on one, huge story about women on the border. I’ve studied the issues, talked to every lawyer, advocate, professor, official and agent involved in the issue. I’ve read every report and article about it. I even analyzed a database of coroner’s reports. But it wasn’t until I met one woman — a girl, really — on the border last week that I really got it. It was the day I realized I was in over my head.

But there also comes a day in the course of every story when you realize that you’ve nailed it. For me, it came at the same moment when I realized I was in over my head. There’s this kind of sniff-it-out, animalistic sense that they try to cultivate in you as part of your j-school education. It goes something like this: You’re sitting in a shelter in Nogales talking to someone and they say something off-the-cuff about their sister and an alarm goes off in your head — “that’s a story!”

Problem is, it’s usually something rather morbid — exposing hypocrisy or uncovering an injustice or the dirty underbelly of…well, anything. Maybe this is why the general public respects journalists about as much as car salesmen or lawyers. Maybe it’s also why we have the amazing opportunity to make a difference.

When you sniff it out for the first time, it’s something like biting into a plum that looks ripe but is still sour. It’s hard to swallow, until you remember that there’s a big picture — until you remember that people need to hear this story. It will make a difference.

This is the difference between journalists and everyone else.

I majored in Visual Arts at Fordham. I spent two years in a dark room learning about photographic composition and form. My professor was a successful photographer in the New York art gallery world.He told us once that on 9-11, he walked outside of his apartment but couldn’t bring himself to shoot that day. He just had to take it in, he said, without his camera.

When I told this to my mother, a lifelong journalist, she was incredulous. “How could you not shoot on 9-11?” she asked. At the time, I agreed with my professor.

Last week, though, when a volunteer was stitching up that girl’s hand where she cut it from falling in the desert, I took the shot.

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The new chain-letter: The never-ending e-mail

December 21, 2009

[On not losing friends, post-grad]

There is an e-mail that I never move out of my inbox, it’s subject title is “My girls, how I miss you,” and it dates back to June 14 — exactly 14 days after my lease ran out in the Bronx and moved back to the desert city that is Phoenix.

There are five of us who try to keep in touch using this ongoing chain of communication — on top of text messages, gmail chat, a phone call here and there and the occasional drunk dial (college reminiscence, you understand).

All in all, keeping in touch with college friends post-grad is hard. Two of us have never been so busy in our entire lives, others have never been so happy and others have never been so far away. Yes, keeping in touch is hard.

But let’s start by saying this: College was fun.

Oh how our lives have changed.

I’m not the only one living with my parents again — thank God. We have a substitute teacher, an accountant, a first-year analyst on Wall Street and a burgeoning publishing assistant in midtown.

Life post-grad isn’t exactly what we all thought it would be. It’s probably not quite as bad, actually. See, there was this mounting fear of the future toward the end of senior year at Fordham. The senior class, as a whole, decided to ignore it with all of our might (as you may be able to guess from the photos above).

Instead, we decided to throw parties with every theme imaginable (luaus, balls, high school stereotypes, etc.), to lay on the quad in the sun, to write amazing final papers and relish the fact that they had no real-world application. It was perfect.

So, now that our lives have changed so much and have gone in so many different directions; now that we don’t live two doors down from one another and share morning coffee and late-night bottles of red wine — now what? Do we lose all of that?

Luckily, I’m a bit of an expert in the moving-away-and-keeping-in-touch-while-starting-over area.

Growing up, we moved a lot. When I was 7 years-old, it was from Louisiana to Oregon; when I was 13, it was from Oregon to Phoenix. Then there was the end of high school and beginning of college in New York.

Every move means the same thing: old new friends become new old friends and new friends find you.

And then I graduated and found myself back in Phoenix again — back with old friends who became new old friends with my now old college friends scattered about, busy finding out what their lives will be.

It was a perfect storm of starting over at the beginning of the…well…old beginning.

We’re not great at this never-ending email — there are weeks when no one writes and periods when we can’t even get a hold of the one living across the world (literally) on Guam. But then one of us sends out a new message in this ongoing chain — she’s sick, or in love or she’s found a new career path she never thought she’d pursue.

So, how does this last, post-grad?

By not letting it go.

I graduated in the worst year ever.

September 25, 2009

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It rained on my graduation day. No, poured.

It was an outdoor ceremony in May.

We all thought it was rather ironic, considering the already manic state we were all in.

After all, we all agreed, we are graduating in the worst year ever.

There’s a scenario that keeps re-playing in my life since my graduation last May.

It happened to me earlier this week at a Starbucks in Paradise Valley mall.

I was next door getting my bridesmaid’s dress fitted for my sister’s wedding (which is in about two weeks now), when I went next door, ordered my skinny vanilla latte, and heard someone kneeling behind the counter say, “Lauren Gilger!” He stood up and I realized it was a friend of a friend I knew from high school.

“Hey! How’re you doing?” I asked.

“Oh I’m good,” he said. “I pretty much work here, go to the gym and hang out at my apartment,” he laughed as he said this…probably because he graduated from Vanderbilt four months ago.

“Well, at least you’re not living with your parents again like me!” I answered.

That scenario, has replayed at least a few times a month since graduation in various places — a bar or two, a restaurant, a store.

I took an English class my sophomore year at Fordham called “Early Upward American Mobility.” We read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and learned why we all think the way we do. It’s like “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” is engraved on our collective conscience. In the words of The Jefferson’s, in America, we’re all about movin’ on up.

It’s been our story, our drive, our ethic since the beginning.

On the first day of that class, I’ll never forget it, Prof. Ed Cahill told us that every American generation since the country’s founding has been more successful than the generation before. Until ours. And it’s not only that we will not make more money than our parents, it’s that we cannot — the growth will have topped out.

This was before the market crashed last summer and made this all obvious.

Right now it seems that every driven, articulate, hard-working, intelligent person I know must be checking to see if they’re diploma is really there on the wall every few minutes. I have a friend who worked as a dog-walker and on-the-street canvasser in Manhattan all summer after graduation, another is waiting tables in Scottsdale, probably reciting french literature in his head, and another is cocktail waitressing at a bar near her parent’s house. I have a friend who’s interning for free at a theater in California and spending her saving’s on rent and another who’s working at Best Buy and applying for every open engineering position anywhere.

A few of us went to grad school right away and are trying not to burn out, and just about everyone else is signing up for the LSAT or GRE right now.

Should we all just give up now and accept the fact that we are way overeducated in a job market that is only shrinking?

I don’t know. But I do know that Ben Franklin would say, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Let’s hope so.

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