Missouri, or, I Finally Did A Thing Worth Blogging About

Last Friday, with my new (to me) car ready to assist me, I left the state of Iowa for the first time in almost three years and headed down to Columbia, Missouri to engage in some good ol’ shenanigans. But really, my very good friend from high school – who, like the non-Iowa states, I hadn’t seen in nearly three years – was visiting the university and I couldn’t not take the opportunity to see him while he was within driving distance. There was no damn way.

I left my house at around 11:00 on Friday morning with the intention of making it to Columbia about a half-hour before the 4:00 intro-psych lecture I wanted to sneak into on campus (accounting for bathroom breaks, food, and the like). I ended up stopping a grand total of one time, at a Casey’s just inside Missouri, where I consolidated the bathroom break and food stop into a single five-minute excursion. (Side note: Somehow, Missouri Casey’s potato wedges are far better than any I’ve had at an Iowa Casey’s. I’m sorry.)

So, with my total travel time just shy of four hours (combined with managing not to get lost), I found myself on campus with an hour before the lecture was due to begin.

The lobby area where I waited for the hour to pass before “class.” Glorious.

Once I got into the lecture hall, the real fun began. (I’ll emulate the greatest writer of our time, Stephenie Meyer, when I add this: Heavy sarcasm.)

I retrieved my laptop from my backpack – totally blending in – and turned it on, only to be greeted by the Eternal Loading Bar of Doom. Only one person was sitting behind me, and I like to assume he was silently feeling bad for me as I hard rebooted, keysmashed in vain, and eventually slammed the damn thing shut as it defeated me. It was all good, though, since the lecturer apparently didn’t allow laptops in his classroom anyway. (Nor did he provide PowerPoint slides of the lectures for his students, so they all had to take notes by hand. In 2015. What a monster.)

If anyone who’s reading this doesn’t already know, I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I picked this class to attend so I could feel good about what I’d achieved in college. And because the main topic of the lecture was the bystander effect, typical Psych 101 fare, I 100% did.

After the lecture I made my way out to my hotel about 10 minutes from campus (it made me miss the Sheraton in Iowa City that is basically on campus, but is relatively inexpensive considering the convenience), where I hung out for most of the night. Except for the couple of hours I spent at HuHot by myself, cutting a line of groups of 4-5 people to be seated alone within 5 minutes of my arrival. Glamorous.

Anyway, here’s a gratuitous photo of me enjoying the most comfortable bed I’ve slept on in years (intentionally upside down, in case you wondered):

And another of the effects of me furiously attempting to get my laptop to start when I woke up in the middle of the night (this story ends here – I ended up reinstalling the OS when I got home, and it clearly works just fine now):

Anyway. Continuing the play-by-play. I woke up after my second attempt at sleeping at 6:30 AM (really 6:13 – I realized too late that the clock radio in my room was 17 minutes fast) and headed to the gym, and breakfast, and then back to the room to get ready to leave. All of that stuff was entirely uneventful, minus the fucking guy I saw in the gym wearing a fucking “Meninist” hoodie, so it only gets one total sentence. Blah blah, watched some TV, checked out of the hotel, waded in the horrors of consumerism at both the Mizzou student center/paraphernalia shoppe and Starbucks, and THEN –

REUNITED.

Because he was short on time, we hung out in the parking lot of the tiny, tiny airport for an hour and a half – still worth all of my travels, forever and ever – discussing our adventures in Columbia (his were better), hometown-type stuff, and basically every other topic that two good friends who haven’t seen each other in years will touch upon during their brief reunion. And all too soon, it was time for him to get on a place back to California, and for me to drive back to Iowa.

It rained on the drive back, and I stopped in a different tiny Missouri town to eat at a Certain College-Type Food Establishment (aforementioned tiny town had not one, but two colleges) and to get gas for the first time all trip (have I mentioned how much I love my car?). When I returned home, my handsome-as-fuck fiancé sleepily listened as I recounted my vast exciting adventures (remember, I hadn’t been outside of Iowa in years), gave him a pair of Mizzou sweatpants I’d purchased for him at the ~*swag shop*~ on campus, and went right to sleep at 7:00 PM.

Really. That’s how my grand adventure ended. Here’s a picture of the dog in the snow to make up for the disappointment I’ve surely caused:

In less exciting news that is not quite blog-worthy but I may as well stick it here anyway, I got my very first call back from an employer since my job-searching spree began in October, had a great interview, and was very kindly rejected for the position a week later. So that’s still going.

I can’t promise that I’ll write here any more often than I have so far this year, since the next item on my agenda [of life things remotely worth writing about] is getting married in July. But as I say to placate y’all just in case, who knows what might happen in the meantime? (Not, like, calling off the wedding. Just…something at all happening between now and then. Gosh, I’m getting bad at this. Bye, friends.)

Positive retrospection

*exhale*

I have really wanted to write about this particular part of my life for a couple of months now, and also wished to write some kind of “2014 in review” post before the end of the year. So, this is both. This was the most difficult decision I had to make this year, but also, eventually, the most freeing. Without further ado:

At the end of October, I chose to leave my graduate program.

After two and a half ridiculous semesters, under a year shy of graduation, I withdrew from my classes and abandoned all the work I had already completed. And while I’m not here to justify my choice to anyone, I’ve never really written about it in this kind of detail, so at the very least I hope you get something – anything, really – out of this extended rant/vent/thing. (I did.)

(Quick disclaimer: I still believe online education is incredibly valuable when executed properly, as I had experienced in the past. I don’t regret choosing this program, because there was no way I could have known any of what ended up standing in my way would happen. This is just what happened to me, and how I chose to handle it.)

My favorite professors during undergrad were equally knowledgeable and approachable. They recognized that students needed to be able to see them as someone more than a lecturer who provided information that had to be memorized for an exam, as people just as complex and interesting as their students. Beginning with our shared enthusiastic interest in the subject matter, I developed meaningful relationships with these professors, and ended up with strong, personal letters of recommendation for graduate school.

Once I started grad school, I assumed that most – if not all – of my professors would share this same pride in their work and be more than happy to inspire their students to better themselves throughout the program. But in this program, I found for the most part that the opposite was true.

Most of the professors seemed unfamiliar with the coursework, and gave only vague responses (if any at all) to students’ questions about assignments. They weren’t able to answer questions about the lectures because, in most cases, someone else had recorded them years before. As a result, they were unhelpful and didn’t seem to care about anything except finishing their grading before the semester ended.

And to put it bluntly, when I say “most of the professors,” I mean all of them I had except one, from whom I was lucky enough to be able to take two classes. She helped contextualize assignments by providing links and analysis of current events, and eagerly answered e-mails within hours. I got the most out of my time in the program from her, if that wasn’t already clear.

My grades in all of my classes were great, and I could have finished my degree with an A average. But that’s not the point. In the end, I wouldn’t have truly learned anything. And when it comes to this degree, in my chosen field, it wouldn’t have been enough in practice to show off my good grades and expect them to get me somewhere. My aptitude as a student – being able to absorb information and effectively study for exams – was the only thing getting me through the program.

The idea of dropping out – or withdrawing, or leaving, pick a term – was terrifying at first. I would have been receiving my degree in May. I just had to hold out a few more months and it would have all been over. But, I mean, that’s just it. A few more months of professors ignoring my pertinent questions about assignments? A few more months of them skimming my papers and giving me a good grade without comment because it looked like I might have tried hard enough to earn it? A few more months of insecurity, both with the program and about my future prospects?

I realized very quickly I was more terrified of finishing this degree having learned nothing than of having to regroup after withdrawing. The choice was clear.

Right now, I’m back to looking for work in about the same capacity as I was during my year off. I don’t know how much weight a year-plus of master’s degree coursework will have on my attractiveness to potential employers. But, not to repeat myself, that’s not the point at all.

What’s occupying my mind as I write this is how damn proud I am of myself for having the courage to identify the issues with this thing I’d put over a year of my life into and to make a life-changing decision based on that. I learned a lot about myself in the week or so it took me to make the call, and I have no complaints about how it turned out. I know I am a better person for it, and I can absolutely take solace in that.

A long-expected update

There, I’ve said it. Now, to do something about it.

I spent my potentially final summer vacation (as a student) occasionally studying for my comprehensive exam in February – you know, that little thing I have to pass in order to receive my degree – and somewhat less occasionally planning my wedding. Due to some unforeseen roadblocks, we didn’t nail down our wedding/reception venue and date until just a few days ago, but now that is DONE and we are EXCITED.

Also, I started my third semester of graduate school last week. While two of my three classes are core work (a.k.a. mandatory classes, the stuff that will be on the comprehensive exam), the third is a sex ed (!) class that I’ve discussed here briefly before. Now that it’s started, I’m even more excited. I’ve gotten to know the professor before in another class, and she is fantastic and has been super open-minded about the topics I’ve covered in the past. Which, obviously, is good, since my position entering this class is along the lines of “the comprehensive sex ed I received as a California public school student, while vastly better than what is offered in most states, was nowhere near truly ‘comprehensive,’ so I want to improve upon that.”

I mean. I’ll get to more about what I mean in a future post, perhaps, but I’m stoked to open that discussion with my classmates. Every week involves class-wide discussions about different topics in sex education, so I will absolutely have a chance to hash out my views about what I believe must be included in “comprehensive” sex education.

Now that I’ve sufficiently gone off on a tangent I can’t fully elucidate, it’s time to further crush your spirits and end this post. I’m super-multitasking, which is why I might have sounded strange at times, so I apologize there! I just wanted to throw something up to let people know I’m totally alive. (But if you want that reassurance all the time, I’m on Twitter! My feed is conveniently located in the sidebar!)

Now what?

This post will consist of bulleted items, because I wanted to post some updates without really writing anything. I hope you’ll understand.

  • You are reading the 20th entry on this blog. I’m actually quite shocked I managed this many posts within the school year. Good for me!
  • Speaking of school, I finished the second semester of my master’s program about a week and a half ago. This time next year, I’ll be in Alabama receiving my degree.
  • Since finishing for the semester, I haven’t really done much besides write the occasional letter. I’ll write one to you, too, if you’d like.
  • We still don’t have a date picked for the wedding, but I wasn’t expecting that to have happened by now. The one thing we’ve done – a “draft” of the guest list – mostly consisted of my lamenting the fact that very few people I invite will actually be able to come.
  • As I have next to zero obligations for the nonce, my activity on Goodreads will pick back up – my page is here. I read a lot of good books, so.

I hope I will have something more fun to write about soon!

“And I come back to you now – at the turn of the tide.”

It’s been almost three months since I wrote here. And not to state the obvious twice in a row, but holy hell is school awesome and hard. Since I haven’t done much non-academic writing in quite a while, I’m not sure of the word that would best describe that aspect of my life. But that’s boring, and some relatively not-boring things have happened in that time.

I got engaged! I also learned how unphotogenic my hands are. Which is why I’ve included a photo of the ring alone in addition to one of it sitting on my finger, in order to redeem the fact that my hands exist (click to enlarge…if you dare):

2014-03-29 01.14.42  2014-03-29 18.13.45

Only a handful of people have asked if there’s a story behind the engagement, which is a good thing because there really isn’t one. It’s likely a public proposal would have killed me, and the whole “surprise” thing isn’t my style (especially because I wanted to pick the ring out myself – which I did!), so we settled for Sean handing me the box containing the ring in the car as I drove him to work. He said “here,” I said “thanks,” and boom, engaged. (We were actually parked outside a Casey’s, if you’d like a little more detail.)

Not to break away from the engagement (ha, ha, ha) too awkwardly – rest assured I’ll be talking about it more once some semblance of a wedding is planned – but I wanted to touch on that other part of my life really fast. The part where I’m a graduate student and it’s super fun but also super un-fun sometimes. (Boos from the gallery.)

I’ll be finished with the first full year of my program by the end of April, which is good! I also register for the fall semester next week, which is great! And it’s going to be my last semester jam-packed with core classes because next spring I’ll only be taking a prep course for the CHES exam (along with a couple of “throwaways” so I can stay full-time), which is awesome! Next semester I’ll be finishing up my core work and also taking a class on sex ed that I didn’t know existed until a couple of days ago, which is GREAT because that’s what I want to teach eventually. It’ll be cool to be able to concentrate on that subject in a class, as opposed to what I do now, which is work it into assignments wherever it’s relevant.

Next week I’ll be heading up to Ames – obligatory “boooo Iowa State” – for the Iowa Governor’s Conference on Public Health. I’m super stoked because a) it’s my first professional conference, b) I get to hand out my snazzy business cards, and c) every single session contains a presentation relevant to my interests (sexual health! LGBT health! social media marketing!). Hopefully I’ll also be able to meet some neat-o people, even if they don’t offer me employment on the spot.

Since I’m not sure how to seamlessly segue into a closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s Spring Book Sale is happening now! If you’re near Des Moines and want to pick up some new reading material while supporting a fantastic organization, I strongly encourage you check it out.

P.S. Anyone for the quote in the title of this post?