What It’s Like to Work Full Time While Getting a Master’s Degree

July 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

[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.

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

January 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

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

June 15, 2015 § 1 Comment

[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!

May 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

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!

Head Over Heels

November 12, 2014 § 1 Comment

[tldr version is at the end of this blogpost]

(I listened to this song today, hence the title of my blogpost. I think it’s appropriate here, honestly.)

 ~

Okay. So several months ago I wrote a rather depressing post about how life as a college graduate sucked. To recap, I complained wrote about how I couldn’t find a job, how no one seems to be hiring recent sustainability grads, and how anxious I was to be out in the real world. I wrote about how hard it was to stay positive.

Well, that was towards the end of June. I couldn’t sit around and dwell on those thoughts, so I distracted myself instead. I filled my days, and so these past six months have been a whirlwind: a happy, exciting, sometimes stressful, always crazy whirlwind.

Since my last post I:

  • volunteered like crazy at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary
  • went back to Hallmark to work part-time
  • applied for jobs
  • got published
  • signed a lease with my boyfriend at an apartment in Ahwatukee
  • applied for jobs
  • moved all my stuff over to said apartment in Ahwatukee
  • went to several interviews
  • got 6 job rejections so that I lived at my mom’s house in Glendale all summer (P.S. the 40 minute drive to see my boyfriend every few days was no bueno)
  • worked for my dad as a social media manager for his website
  • applied for jobs
  • went to a good friend’s wedding
  • wrote curriculum for and helped to launch the nonprofit SmartRoots Global
  • tested several lessons at Homeward Bound
  • applied for jobs
  • turned 23
  • FINALLY got a job as ranch manager at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary
  • FINALLY moved to Ahwatukee with my boyfriend

I also applied for jobs over the last few months.

Let me tell you, reader: if there is a more soul crushing, devastatingly painful thing to do in life other than try to be something you’re not in order to get people to like you and hire you so that you can spend your days in a cubicle doing work you don’t care about, I don’t know what is. But that’s what I did.

Well, the long story short of that brainwave is that I did get a full time job after waiting for so long, the perfect job that I think was meant for me all along.

But that’s a post for another day.

This post is to make an announcement to my friends and family, friends and family I’ve neglected lately since I’ve been so busy with three jobs (two part-time and one full time). Perhaps this is an apology of sorts to you guys as well, because as you’re about to read, my life is about to get even crazier.

I guess all I have to say about this decision that I made is that, surprisingly, not a whole lot of thinking went into it. I mean, I thought about it a lot. But my reasoning behind doing what I’ve done is not complicated at all.

On September 26th, two days after my 23rd birthday, something in my brain snapped. Snapped, I tell you. Since this was before I became ranch manager at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary, on that day I was scouting out jobs on my good friend Google.com and was typing in just about every variation of the phrase that would capture my interests:

“sustainability jobs in….”

“sustainability education jobs in…”

“education jobs in…”

“environmental jobs in…”

“environmental education jobs in…”

Jobs in Arizona. Jobs in Washington, D.C. Jobs in California. Washington state. Oregon. Massachusetts. New York. I even looked in London, if only because I’m dying to go back. I looked for jobs everywhere and I qualified for nothing. The few jobs for which I did qualify, I sent out applications and received brisk email responses informing me that I “lacked experience”.

On September 26th I sat staring at my computer screen and thought…. Is this what I’m destined to see for the rest of my life? Email after email telling me I’m not good enough?

Once that thought entered my head, I started asking myself a lot of other questions. Why is my $20,000 bachelor’s degree useless? Why does no one want to give me a chance? Is this even the field I want to be in? What do I want to do in life? What do I want to DO?

Make your announcement already, Alexis, you say. I’m getting there. I think you see where I’m going.

Anyway, I spent all summer asking myself what I really wanted to do, and another post for another day is how the horses at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary guided me towards the answer to that particular question. There’s no lying with them, no barriers to hide behind and no denying what is truth. And as I spent this summer with them – and in fact, as I currently spend every single day with them – they led me to my conclusion that prompted my decision:

Later in my life (I’m having fun working with horses and helping to built up a nonprofit right now), I want to help fix the education system in this country. After writing curriculum for SmartRoots Global, I realized I want to continue doing so, but I want to add sustainability initiatives at the K-12 level. I want to study education policy and figure out what works and what doesn’t. I want to help teachers teach. I want to give kids a chance.

I want to go back to school. I want to keep learning. I want to give myself a better chance in the battlefield that is establishing a career in my early 20s.

Oh, I sure as hell won’t make a career for myself the way everyone wants me to, by starting small and quietly making my way up the ladder that is the unwritten hierarchy of business.

No, I want to make my own path. And starting in the spring of 2015, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

[Tldr version starts here]

And so, I am very excited to announce that I will be starting my master’s degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Instructional Leadership at Northern Arizona University (Online) in January!

I told my boyfriend the minute I found out I was accepted. I said, “I am officially going to be a grad student!”

He said, “You are officially insane.”

Yes, yes I am.

But as I said before, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. And that, my friends, is half the fun.

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