Vocation Awareness Week – A Reflection on Callings and Life

 

 

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Photo Circa October 2011

 

 

Yesterday in church, a visiting priest spoke to us about how this week is Vocation Awareness Week. It was perfect timing because I’ve been questioning everything lately.

Grad school is going well, but whether it’s because I’m only taking two classes a semester, or because a lot of the publishing material is the same as what I covered studying broadcasting, public relations, and general communications during my days as an undergraduate, I realized last week that I am profoundly bored. I know, I’m as horrified at the prospect as you are. Mostly, I can’t figure out what, aside from teacher insight, I’m getting out of the classes that I couldn’t get on my own. Graduate school isn’t worth it just for the degree and the name of the school on my resume.

When I was first earning my bachelor’s degree, I was convinced that the right school on my resume was my ticket to the Best Job Ever. After transferring to a smaller school and getting a better education there, I realized how ridiculous that idea was. It’s never been about the school name, it’s always been about what I can learn from the program. That’s why I chose Emerson College. It is supposed to be the best graduate publishing program in the country, taught by current professionals, and my ticket into the industry through networking.

I am enjoying my copyediting class, but that’s because the teacher makes it interesting, and the textbooks are a little dry for me to work through on my own. We also have to take overview classes in book, e-book, and magazine publishing. I was assigned to take magazine publishing this semester, and it is almost exactly the same as three different classes I had to take for my bachelor’s. The teacher is lovely, but the material is nothing new. We also have to do interviews with magazine professionals for this class, and for all of my googling/emailing/twittering/calling, I have yet to get a response from anyone I have reached out to. And the lack of interviews, even though I don’t have control over that, actually affects my grades, which is just terrible and makes me incredibly sad.

So, what am I getting out of graduate school? The truth is, I don’t know. My apartment lease is good through August, so I am going to keep at it for another semester and try to take more classes in book publishing specifically, but if it doesn’t get any more interesting then I don’t see the point in sinking myself into more student debt if I don’t need to.

I spoke to an associate editor back in September at the Boston Teen Author Fest, and while she has a master’s in publishing, she said that if she could go back and do it over, she wouldn’t. She would apply directly to internships instead and get involved in the industry that way. Because you can get as educated as you want, but at the end of the day, the industry is small and the only way in is to know people who will want to hire you. Every day that I’m bored with my classes I feel her advice more strongly.

 

If I choose not to stick with graduate school, the next question becomes, of course, whether I want to try for internships here in Boston, or in New York City? My parents live about 90-minutes from NYC, so moving back in with them would make it possible for me to work a part-time job locally and go into the city a couple days a week for an internship.

On the other hand, I love Boston. I feel at home here, and I rarely feel at home 5+ hours away from my parents. Maybe it’s because I have family nearby if I need them? My aunt, uncle, and cousin live here, and my great aunt and a slew of second cousins live just north of the city.

In 2015, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, for a public relations conference and fell in love with the city. My favorite parts were the lack of nightlife and the abundance of green space. It felt like coming home, except it was on the other side of the country. That’s what it felt like moving to Boston. There are parks everywhere here, and New England is almost as friendly as the Pacific Northwest. I have a profound desire to live within walking distance of bookstores, coffee shops, and museums, and I have that here in addition to a church I really like. This city is huge, but at the same time, it is incredibly small. There is a reason the Boston Marathon starts in another town. The entirety of Boston proper is maybe three miles by five miles, and the extended Boston Area is about ten miles by twelve miles. There is always something going on, and that drives my curiosity and my imagination constantly to new heights.

Moving back home requires me to give up all of the coffee shops, bookstores, museums, and my church, and moving near New York City would require me to give up all of my parks and outdoor space as well as my church community. I am at an impossible crossroads.

 

When the priest spoke about vocations yesterday, a couple things clicked in my mind. I started thinking about my life as it stands now, what I can and cannot live without, and what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I’ve never really wanted to be a nun. In fact, until the spring of 2016, the only thing I definitely wanted out of my life was motherhood. I wanted to raise babies with the love of my life, teach them how to survive in this crazy world, and watch them fly. Admittedly, I went to college because I needed to do something and get a job to pay the bills until the day I got married and had babies and could be a stay-at-home mom, and also to have something to go back to after my babies were grown. But I didn’t love anything like I loved the idea of motherhood, and I think that is one of the primary reasons why I floundered so much during college. By the time I transferred schools at the end of 2012, I was completely lost and unsure if I would ever get married, let alone date, and I threw myself into studying communications at my new school in part to distract myself. I enjoyed communications. It was logical, it was scientific, but it was also at the root of what I loved as a child: creation and creativity. Studying communications brought back my love of writing, which had been missing since I started high school.

I graduated with my bachelor’s in Communication Studies, and then I started looking for a job. I quickly realized that none of the companies that could pay me any livable salary had ethics that I could live with or worked with brands that I could get excited about. It was a sad day when I realized I was back to square one. No potential jobs, no potential relationships, and a fat lot of nothing to show for the last five years of my life. I was lost again. I job searched for six months while helping to plan two weddings, and then I took a retail job. I enjoyed the job and wedding planning, but they didn’t change my life or give me direction. After the weddings, I moved to Boston and became a nanny for my baby cousin. I loved that, too, but it also opened my eyes to the trials that would come with motherhood. For one, you can’t turn it off, and I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. I wasn’t even his mother and the worry was almost crippling. The good days were amazing, but the hard days were harder and more exhausting than anything I have ever experienced. It showed me that I’m not quite ready for motherhood; and that finally allowed my heart to consider other options.

Options. There were many of them at the time. I could move home and get another retail job and exist listlessly while I saved up money for an apartment and then some unfocused future doing who knows what. I could get a job in Boston and stay here, doing the same thing with less of a support network. Or, I could consider graduate school in something.

As a child, I wanted to be in school forever. I wanted to possess all of the knowledge of the universe. I really couldn’t blame Eve for trying that apple, because knowledge is intoxicating. While getting my bachelor’s degree, I decided that I was firmly against going to graduate school. I didn’t want to be a teacher, and if I wanted to study history there were a thousand ways to do that without getting a degree of some kind.

Then I discovered publishing through a YouTube video. Ironically, this is similar to the way I discovered public relations, except that that was through Twitter. After a year of praying over it and processing the idea, I applied, thinking I would have to apply for multiple years before I got in. I was accepted on the first try, and now I’m in the thick of it, but I’m still questioning.

Discovering publishing didn’t suddenly make me want to be a writer or an editor. I’ve always loved those things, but it never occurred to me that I could make a career out of it. When I found publishing, I thought a master’s degree was my only way into the industry. Since getting accepted in March, I have learned so much about the ways into the industry, but the doors themselves are still very much closed to me. I hope to crack them open next semester when I take my book publishing classes, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that opening these doors isn’t something anyone can do for me, but something I have to do for myself, in my own way, and with my own timing.

 

All of this questioning started a couple weeks ago when I finally landed a new job. I’m working in retail in what I guess could be described as head cashier position at a superstore that I won’t name for security reasons. My first day was interesting enough to keep me engaged, and then the morning of my second day I sprained my foot/ankle. After nearly two weeks, I returned to work a week ago for my second day on the job, and everything has been hunky-dory since then. I’ll never know if it’s because I’m on crutches or not, but everyone has been especially kind and calm when I ask questions, and so many people have come up to me and introduced themselves that after only six days on the job I can now tell you the basic hierarchy of the store and who is in charge of which departments, as well as point out the store manager, the HR manager, and the regional manager upon request. It’s amazing to me how quickly the acclimation process is going, and just how much I am enjoying it. I get excited to go to work, even though it means being on my feet/crutches for about eight hours and dealing with a handful of frustrating customers each day. I love serving people, especially when I can serve not only the customers but also my fellow employees in some sort of leadership position.

 

So, in the middle of yesterday’s mass, I realized that motherhood wasn’t my only calling. I can’t live without books. The writing, editing, and creation of them as well as the consumption of them. I adore working with people, whether in a customer service or leadership capacity. I also have a dream of being a Girl Scout Leader someday. I was an assistant leader in middle and high school, and it’s life-changing to help young people discover their strengths and the confidence to pursue their dreams. I want all of these things, and where I live won’t change them. These are my vocations.

I’m Moving!

Not to worry, this website isn’t going anywhere. However I, physically, literally, am moving! If you read my September Update a couple weeks ago you already know this, but if you didn’t, now you do! I’m sure you have some questions, so allow me to start off by answering the big ones.

Why are you moving?

I found a job I love better than the one I currently have, and it requires me to relocate. It’s not in retail, which I have enjoyed, but am not looking to make my career in, and it’s full-time! I do love the job I have now, especially the people, but the job I am going to is beyond rewarding, and something I’ve always wanted to do. It will also help me save up for graduate school if I decide to go that route.

What will you be doing that you’re so excited about?

I’m going to be a live-in nanny! And I don’t have to worry about not getting along with the family or anything like that because I’ll be nannying for my aunt and uncle. They will both be working full-time, and they need someone to watch my six-month-old cousin. He’s the one I was babysitting last month who’s super adorable and happy all the time (cross your fingers he stays that way!). This means no more hour-long commutes, but also some quiet time in the evenings for reading/writing, and weekends off!

So… Where are you moving to?

I will be moving to Boston, Massachusetts! It’s a city I’ve always been interested in living in (despite being a die-hard fan of the New York Yankees), and I’m super excited to finally have the chance to explore it!

When are you moving?

The plan is to make the move near the end of the month since my uncle starts his new job in November. I’ll be sure to share photos and tidbits as I move in!

What are you most excited about checking out in your new city?

The Boston Public Library, obviously. Besides that, I’d like to explore Boston Commons, the local bookstores, the downtown restaurants, the publishing houses in the city, the waterfront area, the local bookstores, Emerson College (where I’m thinking about going to grad school), the community Quidditch Teams (because Harry Potter rules, duh),  Harvard, BU, MIT, the city ballet, and the local bookstores. If you have any recommendations of places I should check out, let me know on Twitter! I’ll try to post once a month or so about the places I discover in and around the city.

Overall, I’m PUMPED about the move. I can’t wait to explore my new city. And just to sweeten the deal, I’m moving just before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts! This means I’ll be able to attend meet-ups IRL, something that was impossible where I live now in the middle-of-nowhere, NJ. I love New Jersey, but it’s not all that conducive to making writing and bookish friends. I’m thrilled to be able to meet and get to know Boston’s NaNoWriMo participants. I’m hoping to be able to read and write more once I’m up there and no longer community an hour to my part-time job. This move is going to be so good for me.

 

Until Next Time,

~Amanda

September Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

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It feels like it was yesterday that I was writing last month’s update. Boy, did that month fly by; I went up to Boston to babysit my cousin, I was in not one, but TWO of my best friends’ weddings and four more couples I love got married that month as well (I didn’t attend them all. I’m not that magical). It was a very long month. and yet, suddenly we’re halfway through September! I’ve been a literal zombie for the past week, recovery from my trips while trying to get back to work as usual. At least I haven’t gotten sick yet (fingers crossed that I won’t!).

This month isn’t too busy, but it is full of planning for the next year. So many exciting things are happening! I’ll tell you all about them soon, but first, let’s check in on my goals for the year.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This is day three! I wrote a book review each of the last two days, and I’m hoping to write another two over the next couple days, while I finish this post and hopefully get some time in on my novel during my day off on Friday. I tried to write last week, but my brain was so dead that only nonsense came out of it. It was painful.

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I HAVE NEWS!!! My aunt and uncle and I have been discussing a potential opportunity for me for nearly a year now, but I didn’t want to rely on it because it always seemed like it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. They had a baby in March, and up until now, my uncle has been a SAHD (Stay-At-Home-Dad). He’s due to start a new job in November though, and that’s where I come in. I’ll be taking care of my cousin for them all day while they are at work. For all intents and purposes, I’m a live-in nanny. If that isn’t a dream job at some point in the life of someone who is maternally inclined, I don’t know what is.

If all of that wasn’t exciting enough, they live in Boston! Which means I’m MOVING there. Like, I get to live in this city that I’ve been mildly obsessed with for ages. Which brings me to Goal number three for the year –

Apply to Grad School – My top grad school at the moment is Emerson College and their Masters in Writing and Publishing program. Being that Emerson is in Boston, I’ll finally being going on a tour of campus and trying to meet some of the professors to determine if it’s definitely where I want to go.

Also, this Friday I’m sitting down to plan out my studying strategies for the GRE. Woop Woop!

September Goals:
This month I decided to let y’all in on a secret. I don’t just have yearly goals! I also make up a set of goals for the month, which filters into my daily to-do list(s). This month I want to:

Read 5 books – So far I’ve only finished two, but I’m nearly halfway through my third, so it’s looking good!

Study for the GRE – As I mentioned earlier, this starts on Friday!

Walk 5 miles, 4 times – I originally had this read “walk 5 miles, once a week”, but after the double weddings I was down for the count. Hopefully, I can walk one of my 5-mile stints on Friday!

Ab workout, 4 times – Another one that read once a week and has since been amended.

Write 3 posts for TCSB – This is the first! I’ll probably fill you guys in on more details about Boston, and I’m visiting a Renaissance Faire on the 24th that should be pretty interesting as well!

Write 4 book reviews – Two down and two to go! Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and The Escape by Mary Balogh are up on CSR now!

Write 10,000 words towards your novel(s) – That’s right, I’m writing a book (or is it ~SeRiEs~?). I’ve been writing it for over 10 years actually. Very few people have read any of it, and those who have, haven’t read it in so long that they probably wouldn’t recognize it today. For one, the characters started out as 11 or 13-year-olds, and they’ve since evolved into 20-somethings. Not like they aged in the book, more like as I aged I found it harder and harder to write young characters. The universe(s) the book(s) take place in has expanded exponentially, to the point where I keep trying to populate parts of it and ending up with literally hundreds of characters. And I love every one of them so much that they all have a background and purpose and a future… And you wondered why I’ve been working on this for 10+ years. My goal for the year (TOTY 24, not 2016) with writing every day is to get at least half of my rough draft of the first book finished. Hoping to dive into this some more this month.

 

I think that’s all for now ,you guys! I hope you enjoyed this update, and I can’t wait to share more with you about my move to Boston, and my grad school apps, and my adventures in writing!

 

Until Next Time,

Amanda

Facing Some Fears

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So the last few days or so have been a little difficult. I’ve been contemplating life and what I want to do, and I finally sat down and discussed with my mom some of my fears and misgivings that I have moving forward.

“I’m scared to work in a big city,” I said. I’m worried that if I get a job there that I will have to move there in order to do my job effectively. It’s not the moving that scares me necessarily, but the fear of getting a roommate that I can’t trust and having to live in a city where I know no one, working a job that I don’t like to pay back my loans and eke out a meager existence. This fear is not completely irrational or unfounded. I have had bad roommates in the past. However if I let them, my parents, friends, and even my extended family would definitely help me vet any apartments or roommates I would be looking at. I just have to remind myself that I am not alone in this. Too often when thinking of the future, I think about me, regardless of everyone else in my life. But to live my life to my best ability, I really do have to take them all into account. Not in a ‘I can’t move to Oregon because how would they go on without me‘ kind of way, because they could, and would, go on without me if I moved away, but more in a ‘How can I live my best life by keeping my family in it so I don’t go insane with homesickness‘ kind of way. Because my family is my source of strength. Without a strong base, I can’t reach for my loftier goals.

Applying to jobs is incredibly disheartening. So many employers never send any kind of response to a resume or inquiry you send in. I have come to appreciate even the automated rejection notices, because at least they give a semblance of closure. To combat this, we did some investigating, and discovered that most of the big, credible companies I am interested in working for only hire through agencies. Now, locating these agencies is a whole other ballgame. Some businesses will have a ‘careers’ link right on the website. Perfect. Love it. But for some others, finding out about job openings there is like finding a needle in a haystack, or a needle in a cornfield, or something like that. Nearly impossible. So when we finally located some of those agency sites, I was ecstatic. Now I can find some jobs that I’ll actually be interested in, I told myself. Still, the pickings are slim.

I worry that I’m missing some qualification that will get me the job I want. I only did one internship during college because that’s all I had time for, but more and more job openings are screaming that internships are important and that companies won’t hire you without internship experience. Why? If I worked in the field at some other company then I’ll be aware of how that company works, and it will just confuse me when I try to learn your way. Without the in-field internship, I might not be familiar with the types of software and everyday jargon you use, sure, but as a highly teachable and quick learner, I can pick up those skills in about 3 months no matter what I’m doing. I can tell people all day every day that I am a quick learner, but they aren’t going to believe it until they see it because everyone puts that on a resume regardless of its validity. Sure, I only had one internship, but I learned as much as I physically could and then I turned that into a part-time position at the business. The skills I have learned during my life are incredibly varied and nuanced because of how I grew up, and if there’s anything I can’t do, I know someone who would be willing to teach me how to do it, if I only ask. There is really nothing for me to be afraid of.

So what is my plan? Apply, apply, apply. Look into businesses and agencies and send out an impeccable copy of my resume and a cover letter to all of the jobs I am interested in. Then, the waiting. But while I’m waiting I can be learning. There are a million ways to learn about a field. The simplest way is to do Google searches about it. Then, there are people in the industry that I could interview and ask about their work and what their day-to-day entails in order to get a better look at how it all works. There are always classes I could take, at local colleges or online, to get inside the industry. Or I could skip the classes and just read books written about the industry. See how the authors are interpreting the field they are a part of, and view how the field is growing and changing. These are all things I could do. These are all things I will do to varying extents.

Talking with my mom always reminds of two things. 1) I am not alone, in this or in anything. And 2) I am a lot stronger than I think. I have a lot of gumption, or nerve, or faith, depending on what you call it. And I am not afraid to use it.

Until next time,

Amanda