Tag Archives: commentary


21 Jun

Have you ever noticed that things don’t seem nearly as scary if you put a face on them?  Observe:

Let’s apply this phenomenon to unemployment.

The results are fairly unsettling and kinda awkward, much like actual unemployment.  I’m not sure what the conclusion of this exercise is.  Maybe it’s that there are some things that will forever remain confusing and scary, adorable googly eyes or not.  Maybe it’s that no matter what current obstacle we’re facing, it’s okay to look on the lighter side of things.  Or maybe it’s simply that drawing dumbass faces on shit is really fun.  I don’t know, I’ll leave this one up to you.


Guest Post: Applying to Grad School and What to Avoid

8 Jun

Hello friends! Today we have a guest post from my pal Chelsea, a 2010 Sociology/Chinese major who was determined to get her master’s, but the road to grad school was not as easy as she thought it would be.  Below she shares her story and some helpful advice.

I, unlike the vast majority of my classmates, took the GREs, finished my thesis, took my final exams, and wrote up all my grad school applications within the space of a month and looked forward to hearing back from schools.  Flash forward a few months: I got into my top school, accepted their offer without a second thought (after all, this was one of the top programs in the country and everyone told me how I would fit in so well there), and went to go and visit.

Grad school: rude.

When I went and met my prospective department, sat in on classes, and attempted to see where I would be for the next two years, I felt unwelcome, disturbed, and generally miserable at the prospect that my secure future had suddenly ceased to be so secure.  I had a door closed in my face, had my proffered hand of greeting ignored by a professor I wanted to work with and was instead asked “why are you here?”, was unchallenged in a top level class, and was told I was either not registered as a student or already had a large sum of money owed to the school despite having not started yet.  I was miserable and completely confused.

Here’s the interesting thing: I came back to my school, my friends, professors, etc and explained my predicament.  As I flew back across the country I had pretty much mentally settled on declining their offer, but wanted to get the opinions of my professors, family, and friends first, telling each of these people that I wanted to go and get my masters because of a love of learning on my part, not because of a need to get a certificate that would get me a high paying job in the long run.  My friends, all from liberal arts schools, looked horrified and told me not to go, why waste money, time, and energy on a program that I didn’t like and wouldn’t be challenged at.  This was my future, after all, and people always say don’t settle for important aspects of life, why should I settle for my education after years of hard work?  My professors and family, on the other hand, told me in short to suck it up for two years, it is a great program and will look great when I can put that on my resume. Plus, if it was as easy as I claimed, it would be an easy two years with a great GPA to show for it.  Grad school wasn’t undergrad: I wasn’t going to have the warm and cozy campus environment where professors and students share close relationships.

I learnt two main things from this experience: I love learning for learning’s sake. I don’t agree with everyone that told me to go just for the certificate and job I will get at the end, what’s the point?  I’m not going for the paycheck I will get later on, I am going to learn.  I have worked far too hard these last sixteen years to suddenly settle.  I am doing this for me, after all, may as well enjoy myself by means of being challenged and happy if I am going to go.  The job market currently isn’t the prettiest, but there are jobs available to me if I wanted to go that route right now, I just choose not to.

Second thing I learned: I didn’t know my goals in going to grad school when I applied. I initially applied to programs that mimicked or combined my joint majors of sociology and Chinese in college and expected it to be the same.  What I realized after that trip was that my goal really was to make my Chinese as good as it possibly can be and if I wanted that, I needed to get my butt over to China and work/live there.  Applying for grants or scholarships that would allow me to combine sociology as well would be one option or just living there and doing my own research, whether it be by free lance writing for city specific magazines when I am there, commenting from a foreigner’s point of view, or just keeping my own blog, would be ways as well.  Either way, I would be practicing my Chinese like I wanted.

China: She wants to go to there.

Another part of that second lesson was that I am now reconsidering which field I want to go into. So my main goal now is to make sure my Chinese is top notch, okay, cool.  That’s not an academic goal, so want do I want to do academically?  Everyone and every company is in China currently, I have the world of choices ahead of me.  Where are my interests?  What type of field could I combine many of my interests.  The smartest, most mature choice currently may be to not go to grad school next semester and just reapply in Fall, when I have my brain screwed on straight, my interests in order, and much, much more time to research all possible fields.  I just did what I thought I had to do last year and ended up in this predicament.  Clearly, that was not the smartest move and I can see why people don’t typically apply to grad school while they are still at school.  There simply is no time to do so and you end up screwing up because your head is in so many different places.

Here’s my advice for you liberal artists: if you are going to go to grad school for the same reasons I want to go, love of learning, need to be challenged, fear of the real world, etc make sure you know what you want to do.  You don’t want to end up in graduate school like I could have ended up and realize that field isn’t the field you want to be in, ending up with a ridiculous amount of debts and a lack of resume worthy experiences because you chose the education route rather than the job route.  Look outside the box of what you did in college. Realize that graduate schools tend to name things differently from each other, so while you normally wouldn’t look under one department’s heading for potential programs, you never know what you might find.  The perfect department may be hiding under a completely random title.  Lastly, just go with your gut.  I know some people who don’t think I am making the right decision, but I know this is what is best for me.  It just took a major disappointment for me to figure out what exactly I wanted.

So what’s next for Ms. Chelsea? Who the hell knows, check back for more updates!


Dear Universe: An Open Letter

1 May

Dear Universe,

You know what?  I don’t get you. You make less sense than Brendan Fraser’s enduring popularity.  You’re stripping my bright-eyed idealism and naivete, and turning me into a bitter grown-up, disillusioned with reality.  Already.  Like, you couldn’t have waited until my mid-twenties, or I’ve popped out some bratty kids?

Where is my place with you?  I worked just as hard for my diploma as my younger brother, who’s about to graduate with a degree in Neuroscience.  Yet he gets to waltz right into a 32K paycheck, while I serve as some cheap punchline to stand-up jokes.  Party foul, universe.  You’re not only perpetuating a decades old sibling rivalry, but nourishing the seed of doubt that has been planted in my resentful, crabby soul.

You don’t reward hard work; you only reward a certain type of it. If a BS means that I wouldn’t be eating up my parents’ retirement fund and retained the freedom to go to Taco Bell whenever I damn well please, then maybe, if I had to do it over, I would pick a different major.  But probably not.  I could have done just as well in Microchemical Biogeometric Economic Statistical whatever, but that crap makes my eyes bleed from boredom.  How can I be expected to see the board, and thus pay attention, through massive optical hemorrhaging?  Give me Durkheim over mitochondria any day of the week.

But universe, you’re not totally at fault.  Sure, you may be an unfair bigot, but you do have some jobs available for me. However, in my zealous quest for employment, you’ve forced me to realize something: sometimes I just suck at things, like job applications. Liberal artists are classic overachievers, and I was not used to failure or rejection.  When I didn’t get Teach For America, I was disappointed, but figured, “Hey, the rejection monster had to rear its ugly, falsely apologetic head sometime.”  31 appearances later, I get it, universe, loud and clear.

I’ve found something I am fucking terrible at.  I’ve sent out applications with typos, I haven’t sent follow up thank you’s, I have atrocious interview habits.  But did you have to point this out 31 times?  I mean, that’s a bit heavy-handed, universe.   Am I really that stubborn and stupid that you had to go Desert Storm on my sorry ass?  I think you need to work on your grace and subtlety.  A strongly worded note would’ve sufficed.  Or blatant text, if you’re pressed for time. “Sarah, u sux at job-hunting, gt bttr @ it. kthxbai. uni.”

Universe, I want you and me to be friends.  Let’s get all Rodney King up in here.  Help me find employment.  You know that my research abilities are unmatched, and as Ryan pointed out, I’m generous with my time and resources.  But I know that my resume can’t state “Skills: Reading, Writing, Caring SO HARD.”  So I’m kind of a little tiny bit skill-less, which apparently is an issue.  Fine.

You want people who can play the game, and who are good at what they do. I’m neither.  If I pick up a few marketable skills, like html and C++ (whatever that is), and learn how to apply to jobs effectively, you’ve got to promise to give me a job.  Because we’re friends now, universe, and friends look out for each other.  I’d totally do the same for you.  On an unrelated note, I promise to buy you a car when I’m rich and famous, because I think you’re awesome, universe, and very pretty.

Universe, this is where I’m especially confused, and I’m counting on you, with your 4.5 billion years of life experience , to give me some advice. What kind of job should I get?  My job hunt has increasingly been driven by desperation and conflicting wants. I want to change the world.  I want to fix you, universe, because you’ve got issues.  The student achievement gap?  Colossal problem.  (It’s like you hate children, just like you hated the dinosaurs.)    But I want nice things too.  For example, perhaps I want to employ a butler named Belvedere to meet my every whim.  Or  I may want to go to grad school without facing an insurmountable wall of debt.

I think liberal artists feel the same way.  We are ready to become peace warriors against “The Man,” because we’ve spent four years learning how, throughout history, he’s taken a major dump on minorities, women, the environment, what have you (dude’s a dick).  But when push comes to shove, a lot of us look for employment that satisfies a tall order of requirements.  We feel so much pressure to find that perfect job: from our parents, who want to ensure we financially benefit from their pricey investment; from society, who have been forecasting our unemployment since we declared our majors; and from ourselves, who consider our degrees a door-opener to whatever opportunity we deem worthy of our intelligence and integrity. For instance, I came out of college thinking money was a bad thing and non-profits were the only way to truly affect change and apply what I’ve learned in school, but my parents balked at the notion of working for table scraps.  My hardworking, immigrant parents, who’ll pay a total of eight college tuitions (yes, eight!), did not send me to Middlebury to live under the poverty-level for my first few years out of school.

Universe, how do I reconcile these wants and pressures?  Do you think the corporate sector is as soul-less as the stereotype propagates?  How do I change the world without living on food stamps?  How do I deal with the fact that a lot of people seem to treat AmeriCorps as a last resort, when all other employment resources have been exhausted?  Why are alumni admitting to me that their philosophy degree is impractical, or law school was a bad decision?  What do I do when my 15 year old brother, annoyed that I’ve switched the channel, says, “Maybe you should’ve picked a different degree, because then you wouldn’t be living at home,” and I know he might be right?  Why are you, universe, sending me all these signs that everything I cared about, everything I thought was important and special, is second fiddle to the world of science and economics?  Why are you reducing my studies, my universe, to a mere passing interest, something to be derided and regretted?

I know I’ve just thrown a lot at you, Universe, and I don’t expect an answer anytime soon.  I know you’re probably busy, expanding to the far corners of space, dealing with exploding stars, and consoling Pluto.  I guess I’ll just try to figure this all out for myself until then.  I think I’m due for a nice long bout of self-reflection, anyway.



Kids and Twenty-Somethings: More in Common Than You Think

31 Mar

After Jurassic Park came out, I wanted to be a Dinosaur Princess.

I just turned 23 last week.  Every time you have a birthday, you may take a moment to reflect and think, “Is this really where I thought I was going to be when I was a kid?”  The answer is: probably not, unless you envisioned living at home and watching Law and Order: SVU with your mom ad nauseum.

For one, most kids can’t grasp the idea of aging; I’m pretty sure that as a five year old, I didn’t think the age 23 existed; you were either a baby (and no fun because you couldn’t ride Big Wheels), five, or old.  And if you asked me how “old” old was, I would probably either say 100, or 12.  Nothing random like the early twenties.  Secondly, your adorably clueless five year old brain couldn’t understand that one day you would have to have a serious answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  There comes a point where you just can’t respond with “Batman!” or “a ballerina!” or, as my overachieving six year old sister aspires, “The President, a ballet teacher, a doctor, and in the Olympics.  For figure skating.”

So, my five year old self thought I was either going to be five forever, and the oldest I would probably get would be 13, maybe 14. And if I ever got to be that old and was forced to retire my Big Wheels and get a real job, well then, I would most likely become a princess.  (And if you asked me how I would enter the ranks of royalty, I would shrug, “I dunno, magic, prolly.”)

If this childish innocence doesn’t seem familiar to anyone (really, who are you humorless people?), just look around today’s youth and you’ll see it in droves.  According to Forbes.com, kids are drawn to the fantasy and allure of employment, and have no idea about the true salaries or the availability of positions regarding their dream jobs (like, duh).  For example, some young respondents thought that police officers make a grand total of $29 a year, while older kids thought that dancers rake in $116,000.  The reality? $48,410 and $28,829, respectively.

I think that there are some interesting parallels between kids and recent unemployed grads.  How many of us can say that we aren’t just as clueless about our dream jobs than our five year old counter-parts? Do we know if said dream is a happy, shiny fantasy or a true fit for us and our career ambitions?  What do we actually know about the salary and the upward mobility of this job?  Is this a stable vocation that we can carry-out for the long-term?

Our early twenties is this strange transient phase of our life.  In order to settle it down, we have to be well-organized and well-researched when it comes to our professions.  Do your homework to find out if you truly want to be an astronaut, a movie star, or SpongeBob.  Which may be possible through…I dunno,  magic, prolly.