Category Archives: All Things College

One Class To Go

This is me after officially completing my second-to-last class for my graduate program at 8:21 this evening, only leaving my capstone thesis between me and my diploma:
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This is also me:
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But also me:
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and also me
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Is it May yet?
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What It’s Like to Work Full Time While Getting a Master’s Degree

[TLDR version] It’s like this:

For those of you following the intriguing scattered random chronicles of my life, you’ll know I had the dumbass idea of starting a full time graduate program in January this year.

I finished three classes in May then picked up two more a week later. They were six week courses and they both covered the material of an entire semester. And they about finished me.

Those two classes ended nearly two weeks ago, and I’m now a week into two more six week courses that end in August. And then a week after those end I begin my fall semester, where I’ll be driving to ASU’s downtown campus for three hour night courses Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays until December.

Yesterday, I spent two hours staring at my MyASU blackboard page and at my textbook, not soaking in a word of anything, my brain trying to function like those bits of machinery you see in cartoons but can’t turn correctly because the hero wedged a wrench into the works. And the alarm is screeching and a red light is flashing and the heroes are running for it like a bat out of hell.

Oh wait, that’s a scene in Chicken Run.

That’s a good movie.

I should watch that again soon.

Like next May after I graduate.

My point is, after six months of doing grad school full time while working full time, I’m not entirely sure if this is working out or if I’ve gone absolutely batshit crazy.

And I really have no point to this blogpost other than to find a bunch of gifs that accurately sum up my life right now.

Because crazy = fun = gifs = nonsense = what is this = what have I done.

But instead of going completely off the rails here (is it too late for that?), let’s focus on some inspiring things, shall we?

Whenever I get free time, I’m either a) sleeping; b) putting food in my face; c) chasing my cats away from leftover food; d) yelling at my boyfriend for drinking monsters and making sure he eats at least once decent meal a day; or e) watching Britain’s Got Talent clips on YouTube. I have no idea how that last one started. I blame my obsession with London and anything English. But there’s something about watching people just blow an audience away with their talent that I really, really love. That, and I adore Simon Cowell and I’ve just recently become obsessed with one of the judges, Alesha Dixon. Her music is so uplifting!

So whenever I get completely discouraged, I just pull up YouTube and watch clips from that show. My favorite contestants are those who walk onto a stage and no one expects them to have any talent whatsoever, then they end up making the audience lose their minds because they’re so brilliant. It’s so inspiring to watch their dreams come true. I don’t even care if it’s staged. Those people have some serious talent.

My most recent favorites are Lettice (yes, that’s her name!):

and Calum:

and the dancing Stormtroopers, Boogie Storm:

But let’s be honest, watching the ones who are terrible but think they’re amazing can be just as good.

(That last one’s from the X Factor, but who cares?)

Someone told me once that the 20s are for working, working, working…. for establishing a career and jobs and bill paying and work and work again and taxes and adult. Maybe they were right.

Because I’m pretty sure I blinked and now I’m halfway through my 20s. I turn 25 in September and I’m not entirely sure how that happened.

And someday, when I look back on this blogpost, I’ll be in my 60s and wondering how I got there, too.

I suppose I should just take one day at a time. That’s all anyone can really do, right?

And if I survive this crazy period in my life by posting gifs about it and watching Britain’s Got Talent, well, so be it.

What do you guys do to survive your insane times in life? How about you moms out there with your tiny humans? I bet you’re reading this post and laughing hysterically. Teach me your ways.

Putting on the Hazards

Yesterday evening I was sitting in my car in the ASU Cronkite lot, putting food in my face, when a guy came up to my window and indicated I should roll it down.

“Hi,” he said, “do you know you’re getting a flat tire?”

I’m pretty sure it took me something like twenty seconds to respond. It was Monday night, I was about to walk into my last in-person class of the semester, I was still recovering from a huge fundraiser my work had all day Saturday, I had about ninety seven end-of-the-semester assignments on my mind, I had just finished checking my email to discover I had at least twenty of them needing a reply and…

“Well, my light came on yesterday night,” I said vaguely. “Um, the pressure light. The light on my dash saying I need to fill the tires.”

The guy nodded. “Cool. Just wanted to be sure you knew.” And he walked away while I stared out my window, my bite of salad halfway to my mouth, wondering for the fortieth time in the last few weeks what I was doing, juggling a billion different things at the same time, doing nothing but school and work as evidenced by the fact that I was sitting eating dinner with my textbook propped open next to me in my car that was apparently getting a flat tire.

To ease my mind, I got out of my car and looked at the two tires on the driver’s side of the car. Somehow, within my completely fried brain, I made the connection that if those two tires were fine then all four of my tires were okay, albeit a little low on air. I figured that’s what the guy meant. My tires were just low on air. No problem. I’d fill them up tomorrow, at a gas station that was not in downtown Phoenix at night where I’m pretty sure not knowing how to fill tires would be the least of my problems. 

I got back in my car, finished my food, checked my makeup in the rearview mirror to confirm I didn’t completely look like a zombie, gathered my books, and got out of my car again to go to class.

And looked at my other two tires.

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Oh.

Yeah.

Getting a flat tire, alright.

When I’m in my final stage of exhaustion before I completely break down, everything becomes funny to me. I think it’s a defense mechanism. Laugh so you don’t scream and bang your head into a wall cry. That sort of thing.

So I started laughing, thinking that my car had decided to show me what my brain was going to look like in a week or so, when all my classes are done and I completely forget the material I’d learned. I jokingly texted my boyfriend the picture of my tire with the caption “Wat do.” I figured dang, I needed to fill them, stat, especially the back right.

And long story short, because I didn’t want to go fill the tire at a gas station in downtown Phoenix at night by myself and he didn’t want me driving on a deflated tire, my boyfriend drove downtown so he could go with me.

Some knights don’t come riding up in shining armor. Sometimes they come driving beat up ’97 Saturns.

When I got out of class he was already at my car, investigating. When I’d texted him the picture, there was still a significant amount of air in the tire. At the point he arrived in the parking lot and I got out of class, it was completely flat. Crap.

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We got out the spare and the jack, couldn’t figure it out, said screw it, and called AAA.

“Okay, so we’ll be there between now and 8:47pm.”

It was 7:20pm. Double crap.

Luckily, a very nice police officer nonchalantly rode up to us on his bike (there are cops that roam around campus during the day and the evening) and offered to help. At one point my boyfriend said that he thought we could handle it. The cop said, “I’m bored. This’ll give me something to do for a few minutes.”

Turned out he changed tires all the time and he changed mine in about twelve seconds. Alex called AAA to tell them not to come while the cop and I chatted about drunk students and drunk homeless people he’s had to deal with. Poor guy. Being a police officer can’t be a fun job.

Before I got in my car to drive home, he and my boyfriend both warned me not to drive fast on the freeway since the spare wouldn’t be able to handle it. “Be sure you go to somewhere like Discount Tires tomorrow – don’t go to a gas station to just get the others filled,” the cop said. My boyfriend and I thanked him profusely and he left.

It’s a slow drive through downtown Phoenix to the freeway, so I was fine driving reeeeeally slowly on the service streets. But once I got onto the freeway and started needing to go fast, people behind me started getting seriously pissed. I didn’t want to drive over 40-45, so when I was only going 45 in the acceleration lane everyone stuck behind my car wanted my blood.

So I did something that changed everything. I put on my hazards.

Now, I’m not entirely sure that driving with your hazard lights on is legal. Several cop cars blew past me and no one stopped me, so it must have been somewhat acceptable. Either way, I didn’t care.

Because once I put those hazards on, once I put out the message to my fellow drivers that hey, I need to drive slowly right now, dammit, so get off my freaking back, boy did those people change their tunes. People stopped tailgating and honking. They politely went around me and gave me distance and just let me and my car do our thing as we went clunkity clunk up the I17.

And in my state of utter exhaustion, there I was laughing the whole way. Somehow, it was just so appropriate. I couldn’t get over the fact that the minute I simply let the world know that my car was falling apart (sort of) and to back off while it was down, everyone went out of their way to make my life easier. Once they saw the hazards, they knew the situation was escalated and not to try and mess with me.

I imagined what some of the other drivers might have been thinking as they swerved around my car.

“CRAZY BITCH GET OFF THE ROAD YOU PIECE OF—Oh, hazards. How sad, she must be falling apart.” -swerve-

“Oh look, she’s about to go kaboom. Alright, I’ll give her some space.” -swerve-

It was simply amazing. I didn’t have to worry at all. Everybody just left me alone.

And I got to thinking about how this is where I’m at right now. Finishing up my semester, struggling to keep up with work without an administrative assistant, everybody needing something from me all at once, recovering from a 60 hour workweek last week, and very close to absolutely losing my mind. Falling apart. Trying to keep moving down the road with a flat tire.

So what do I need to do between now and May 9th, the start of my first glorious vacation since December, when I took three days off of work to go to Vegas?

I need to put on my hazards.

Do I want everyone to leave me alone? Of course not. And besides, I can’t stop working, because I’ve got an organization to run. I can’t stop doing school, because I refuse to let my grades take a hit.

But I sure can make it clear to the rest of the world that I need just a little bit of understanding. I need just a little more time to get where I’m expected to go. I need just a little bit of swerving around my slow-moving car at the moment.

So, other drivers? My hazards are on, and while the car isn’t stopping any time soon, for now it’s not going to go as fast until it gets that tire replaced.

Time and Energy

I have started, stopped, restarted, erased, started again, and temporarily given up on about twelve blog posts over the past few months. I’ll get the idea for a post based off life observations, random epiphanies, or stories from my life that hold some kind of personal meaning (all of which stick to the theme of this blog)… and then I just can’t finish them.

Why? It comes down to a lack of time and energy.

And there are some good posts in the making, if that counts for anything. Just a few that I’m really trying to finish are “Fair,” which is about the realities of adulting, namely spending all earned money on bills; “Punishment by Kisses,” which is about my discipline tactic for Theon, our absolutely insane kitten-almost-grown-cat, and “The Weirdest Thing I’ve Ever Wanted,” which is about…well, I’ll get around to writing about that level of crazy soon.

That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway – that I’ll get around to writing down all my ideas eventually.

And I’ll also get around to vacuuming my apartment, and scrubbing my showers, and deep-cleaning my car, and maybe trying out a new recipe, and actually reading all the pages in my textbooks, and answering all the texts I get when I receive them and not putting off replying for two days, and meeting up for dinner or coffee with my friends to assure them I’m still alive, and going through my closet to throw out things I never wear and and and –

Honestly, I think that the reasons prohibiting a steady stream of posts on this blog can describe my life right now.

No time.

No energy.

Only work and school. And eating occasionally. Though to be fair, I very rarely sacrifice sleep. I go to bed and wake up at the same time most days in order to get my eight hours.

So, okay. Work, school, and sleep.

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table on a Friday night, which is my Sunday because my workweek starts on Saturday. I have laundry in the dryer, dirty dishes in the sink, and about 47 million homework assignments in my head quite literally giving me panic attacks if I think about them too much.

I went to a Carrie Underwood concert last night (which was AMAZING), and the only downside to it was that I didn’t get to bed until 1 in the morning, which is about five hours past my bedtime. And I can’t sleep in to save my life (see above), hence why this whole day has gone by in a haze of exhaustion.

So naturally I’m writing this post rather than doing my homework. After, oh, eight hours of trying to study, I’ve given up. For tonight, anyway. But now more than ever I just want to give up forever.

No time.

No energy.

Even with sleep.

My apartment needs to be cleaned. I haven’t gone grocery shopping in over a week. Gypsy – our six-year-old calico kitty – peed on the couch cushions for two consecutive nights now so the couch is taken apart and the covers are sitting on top of the washer. She has an appointment to see her vet on Sunday since peeing on the couches in the past always meant that she came down with a UTI.

And as I sit and look around I realize that I haven’t had the time or energy to do anything besides work or school since January. Sooner later, I figured, I would start to feel the strain, but that I’d be able to handle it when it came. But after several months of a balancing act… something eventually has to give. I fear that thing is my sanity. Or my health. This past week I’ve just felt awful – nauseous and weak all around. Stress does wonders to the human body.

Where am I going with this post, other than to shamelessly and selfishly complain about first world problems on social media? I have no idea.

I guess all I intended to say is that I knew I would break down eventually.

No time.

No energy.

I am taking a week off (an entire week!) in May, during which I will have no work and no school. At long last, I’m going to Monument Valley for one or two of those days, and my boyfriend will probably tag along. We are both in desperate need of a vacation – or at least a date. This vacation is going to be what gets me through.

Until then, I have a huge work event to help run (which, to be fair, is going to be incredible – details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/521077841398233/) and two classes worth of final papers, assignments, research article summaries, discussion board posts, and textbook analyses due in the next few weeks.

One other blog post I’ve attempted to work on is “Adulting Definitions,” in which I give my own definitions to words or terms. One of my terms is grad school, and it is currently defined as “two years of making bad decisions and justifying them.”

Guys, this is hard.

I thought undergraduate work was difficult. And it was. Undergraduate degrees are brutal.

But it was all just a sample of the daily hell that is grad school. For the first time since I started my program in January, I am truly beginning to question why I started.

Luckily for me, the reason I started is the reason that will keep me going. All 32 reasons will keep me going.

To all of my ranch friends and coworkers reading this….please let this blogpost serve as an explanation as to why I haven’t answered your emails or texts yet or sent donation receipts or planned meetings or completed my part of a group task.

No time, no energy might be the theme of this blogpost, but I know that life is a battle of finding both for the things that are important.

Life, you haven’t won this round yet.

Yet.

 

My 100th Post, Some Recaps, and A Farewell to Sanity

This post jumps all over the place, but then again so do I. So maybe it works out, somehow.

Today I looked back a bit over this blog, which I started in April 2012. 100 posts later, I am marveling at the life journey I’ve had since I started Shorts and Snippets, particularly over this past year and a half.

A year and a half ago I was suffering from post-graduation anxiety depression. I wrote about how turned around I was after graduation, how nothing seemed to make sense anymore and how I worried I wasn’t ever going to get a job.

I wrote about the helplessness, confusion, and frustration I was going through, how the real world was nothing like college and that I didn’t expect my sadness to go away any time soon.

I wrote about one of my life’s greatest disappointments (which, naturally, turned out to be a blessing in disguise). I tried to make sense of failing an exam I’d studied for for months and failed by one question. I tried to reevaluate the reasoning behind my degree and my interests. I tried to adjust my plan.

Then I started working at my current job, a nonprofit organization called Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary at which I’d volunteered for over five years (and written a book about). Still somewhat lost and unsure of what it was I wanted to do, however, I started my M.Ed six months after I graduated college, and promptly quit after one semester. And when I quit that program, I realized that it was okay to have absolutely no clue where my life was going.

I stopped having a plan.

And that was maybe the best thing I ever did.

Somewhere along the journey to quitting a life plan, it occurred to me that I no longer had to search for my calling. I didn’t need to keep looking for what it was I loved to do. I didn’t need to find my field, I finally realized, because I was already in it.

I realized that I had fallen head over heels in love with my job. I learned what it took to be a rancher. To be the caretaker of 33 horses. To be the leader of a nonprofit organization.

And the more I worked, the more I realized I still didn’t know.

I was thrown/willingly jumped into the task of running a nonprofit, and while went by instinct, I also learned by doing (mostly by failing at tasks miserably then learning from my mistakes). I begrudgingly accepted the fact that there was a lot of practical information behind running a nonprofit that I couldn’t learn at a horse ranch.

So, for kicks, I looked at nonprofit management graduate programs. I only applied for one: Arizona State University’s Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program. For some reason, they let me in.

And tomorrow, my first semester begins. Hence my farewell to sanity.

I warned you this post jumped all over the place. I’m not sure of what else I want to say other than to offer an explanation as to why I’m probably going to drop off the face of the Earth for a while. I attempted full time school and full time work a year ago with my M.Ed., and it wasn’t easy. I’m not sure what this semester has in store for me, but I know that juggling school and a job and family and friends and oh, maybe sleep every now and then is going to be one wild ride.

Will I finish this program? Or drop out after a semester, like with my M.Ed.? I’ll be honest: I’m not planning on either. I’m not planning on anything.

I’m just going to take it one day at a time.

Because the more I jump and fall and skid and dance through life, the more I realize that nothing can ever be set in stone. Passions burn and die and burn again, interests come and go, hopes and dreams are forever evolving. And even though the music changes, to keep on moving you still have to dance.

Starting tomorrow, dance I shall.

The music will be fast-paced for quite some time. But I’m not worried. I’ll make up the dance as I go along.

It’s Okay to Not Know

[Picture is of Sunny after her first painting. She doesn’t have a plan set in stone for her life, either!]

I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb having a plan for my life.

I might even say I know I did.

When I was twelve hours old, the doctors brought me to my parents and told them I had a beta strep infection that – back in 1991 – killed something like 98% of all babies that developed it within 24 hours of birth. I was not expected to live.

Ten days of care from the incredible doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, many prayers from all my family, and some fierce fighting later, my parents brought me home from the NICU.

I had a plan for my life. I had no idea what it was when I was a newborn, and as I sit here and write this close to 24 years after, I have no idea what it is now.

And I think for the first time, I’m realizing that it’s okay not to know.

Tonight, I dropped all my classes for my master’s degree.

I keep looking at that sentence and feeling such contentment.

It’s not all that interesting how it happened. On June 1st, after a three-week break from classes, I was due to start back up again. It was a Monday and by the time I logged in to my online NAU account and downloaded the syllabi for my two courses, it was 7 pm and I’d worked something like a nine-hour day. Half of that was spent in 95 degree weather at the ranch.

I started to read the syllabi for my classes that night. I don’t even remember what they were. One had something to do with classroom instruction analysis.

And as I read, my heart sunk as a I realized that the classes a) required me to already be teaching in a classroom, and b) sounded more boring than all the math classes I was forced to take for my undergraduate degree.

I dropped them. Right there on the spot. And tonight, I dropped the other two summer courses I was due to take starting in July.

Working as the ranch director of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary has sharpened my love for education. Every day I teach new visitors or volunteers something. I love showing people who have never touched a horse before how to approach them. I love showing them they don’t have to be afraid. I love giving riding lessons and I love sharing advice with my veteran volunteers (and receiving it in turn).

My love of teaching doesn’t mean I need to get a degree in education.

In fact, the more I looked at my program of choice, the more I realized it was more appropriate for classroom teachers looking to move up to the role of administrator. Not for someone who potentially wanted to encourage more sustainability initiatives be put into curriculum.

After feeling relief upon dropping my classes, I know it was the right thing to do.

I’ve always had a plan for my life. Ever since I was four, I was going to be an author. (This one I did accomplish!) In high school, I thought I was going to go into theatre for a while. Then I was going to study liberal arts. Then I was going to be a journalist. No, an activist writer. No, a part of government. No, a part of the American University School of International Service. Then I was going to be an international peacemaker. A policy maker. Then I was going to go into public administration. Then the USGBC. Then a teacher. No, then education policy. Sustainability policy. A curriculum developer.

All those plans were either bitterly crushed or I moved away from them because I realized the path was not mine to take. Being a part of government or policy or international relations might have seemed like my calling at the time. But in the long run, they just didn’t speak to me.

Tonight, I requested information from ASU about their masters program in nonprofit management. I love my job and I know I have worlds more to learn about running a nonprofit organization. And ever since Sunny was born, I have daydreamed about founding and running a Premarin mare and foal sanctuary or rescue. I’m thinking pretty hard about that one.

My point? Right now, I have no plan. My plan is simply to not have a plan. I intend to take whatever is thrown at me and accept what comes of my future application to ASU’s nonprofit management program. I intend to take whatever is thrown at me in general.

Right now my boyfriend and I are not sure where we’re going to be living when our lease is up in August. Due to him recently quitting his soul-sucking job, we aren’t even sure if we’re going to be living together come August (which, ironically, will bring our five-year anniversary).

Someone up there really decided to make this whole not-having-a-plan thing interesting. And what’s amazing is that I feel no stress or anxiety over either situation.

I’m simply taking each day as it comes.

Because in the end, you don’t choose your purpose in life. Your purpose chooses you. And when you trust that everything happens for a reason when it’s supposed to, that purpose shines through.

Do I know that for sure? Hell, no.

But from hereon out, I’m going to believe it.

(And now I’m going to go watch The Emperor’s New Groove.)

I’m Free!

My first semester of grad school officially ended last night after I submitted my last final. And so for the first time since mid-January, I woke up on a Sunday morning (after sleeping in till nearly 7), got out of bed, made breakfast, then sat down and tried to decide what I wanted to do. After four months, I didn’t have to worry about homework.

It. Was. Glorious. It still is.

I finally decided to watch The Nanny (my favorite show – no judging) while OD-ing on Pinterest. Such mindless contentment. It was amazing.

Summer classes begin for me on June 1st, and until then, I have three leisurely weeks to do nothing other than work and wait for our pregnant mare to have her baby. My biggest plan is to de-clutter my apartment, as per my KonMari Method project that I said I was going to start then didn’t because life happened.

Hopefully I’ll have something interesting and noteworthy to post about during these next three weeks! In the meantime, friends and family, let’s meet up now that I have some free time so I can prove I’m still alive. 😉

I’m freeee!