Posts Tagged ‘graduation’

Post-Grad: Part 2

May 22, 2011

Well, it’s official. I’m a graduate. Again.

Last week, I stood on stage at Gammage Auditorium as Associate Dean Marianne Barrett placed a graduate hood over my head. I walked across the stage in ludicrously high heels and shook the hand of Dean Chris Callahan and then made my way to my mother, Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who handed me a diploma — and a very big hug.

After two long years of writing, shooting, laughing, crying, running in heels and sometimes falling on my face, I now have a master’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My post-grad life is about to restart. And so is my post-grad blog.

I will wake up tomorrow morning, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I think it has something to do with this impending reality — not the coffee, leaving Phoenix. See, there is nothing I want to do less.

Last month, I found myself sitting in a tiny room inside a shop in Sedona with my two best friends and a woman named Ashiko. She had a vague Eastern European accent, round glasses and three decks of Tarot cards. Now, as a Catholic, I don’t believe in this kind of thing — fortune telling or auras or palm readings. But, as a Catholic, I was also raised with an innate respect for — and fear of — anything that hints of the supernatural and superstitious. So, as I should have expected I would, I believed every word Ashiko said.

She read me like the open book I am, and we spent the majority of our time talking about my career. Where will I go when I graduate, she wanted to know. I did too. So, I pulled a card for each place I might end up — New York, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans. They were all promising, she said. There were cards with words like “Power” and “Prosperity” on them. Nothing ominous at all.

Then, I asked Ashiko if I could pull one more. “What if I stay in Phoenix?” I asked, and flipped over a card.

There was a picture of a Gollum-like character on it gripping onto the bars he was trapped behind. “Clinging to the past,” the card said.

Out loud, I laughed at the cryptic message on the card. In my head, I was shouting at Ashiko and all of her supposed wisdom about my life. My life. What did she know, anyway?

I left the shop secretly devastated by that card — not because the card would somehow force me to leave Phoenix, this city that I love with its mountains, heat, space and my friends and family within its boundaries. I was devastated by that card because I knew what it said was true.

Tomorrow, I will wake up, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ll spend the summer in Europe and New York City. I’ll become a Carnegie fellow at ABC News under Brian Ross’s investigative unit. I’ll apply for jobs all over the country — the world, really. I’ll convince myself I’m ready for another adventure and I might actually be ready for one by the time I start it.

But, all the time, wherever I end up in the coming months and years, I’ll know that I was devastated when I saw that card.

After a lifetime of moving from place to place, the last occupied always became my new answer to the question, “Where are you from?” In Oregon, I was from Louisiana; in Phoenix, from Oregon; in New York, from Phoenix; in Paris, from New York. Then, I moved home. Now, I will always be from Phoenix.

I was devastated when I saw that card because I knew what it said was true.

That’s how fortune telling works, after all.

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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.

My Dad does my laundry.

October 1, 2009

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I probably shouldn’t admit that. Especially online, to the 25 people who read this blog.

But there it is — the really hard thing about insisting that I move out of my parents house as soon as possible.

(The other really hard thing about it is that I have absolutely no expenses right now — except for shopping and lunches at Matt’s. And those don’t count.)

As soon as I decided against taking out another $50,000 in loans to go to Medill last Spring, and that I’d come to ASU — in Phoenix, where my parents live, where I  have a bedroom full of stuffed animals and soccer trophies and porcelain dolls — I immediately insisted that I would NOT be living at home.

Then, my potential roommate lost her lucrative nannying position and I decided to wait to move out. Rents are too expensive alone.

Then, I started to get used to my Dad doing my laundry.

And now, I’m realizing what that really terrible Sarah Jessica Parker movie was about (the one with Matthew McConnaughey where he’s 30 and won’t  move out of his parents house.) It’s just so easy!

I have only one excuse for this that might make me seem a tiny bit less like a 22 year-old baby: I have the best Dad in the world. (I know everyone says that, and I’m sure you mean it too, but mine is really the best.)

He quit his job when I was a baby and has been a stay-at-home — cook dinner every night, make lunches every morning, put side ponytails in our hair, coach the soccer team, drive us to swim practice — Dad ever since. When my sister and I were kids, my Mom would come home from work to find my Dad cooking with painted fingernails. His big nails were so much easier to paint than ours.

Now, as I’m finding myself with more work than I’ve ever had in my entire life (yes, I know I thought that after high school and then after college, but I’m serious now) — I have to admit it, it’s a huge relief to have a back-up to my alarm clock when I turn it off in my sleep, coffee ready when I get up, and it’s really nice to have someone to do my laundry.

I know this can’t last forever. I know that I have to move out sometime soon. I know that, in the end, I’ll have to do my own laundry again.

But there is one consolation to this inevitable future: My Dad’s really terrible at doing laundry.

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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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