We Are Not Invincible

This is not the tone I expected my first blog post of 2016 to take on, but it’s been weighing on my heart and I need some relief.

Today is January 1st. It’s a day when everyone is so full of hope and enthusiasm about the year to come. We’ve made it through 2015 and now 2016 is here and it’s wide open. The possibilities are endless. The future looks bright. This will be our year. The world is ours.

How trite of us to think this way. 

As I type this, I’m getting ready to attend the funeral of a dear neighbor. Yes, on the first day of 2016, I’ll be saying goodbye to a person who has been a fixture in my life since the day my family and I moved into the ugly, grey (but wholly our own) one-family home across from hers. I was 9 when we moved in. My grandmother would pass away later that month. It was January.

Our neighbor, who we lovingly called Ms. Smith*—partially out of respect and partially because we never knew her first name—was a kindred; a fellow West Indian who was generous with her friendly waves and smiles. Although I didn’t know her well enough to call her a close friend, she and her family were part of the fabric of home to me. And now she’s gone.

That is why, reader, I’m writing to remind you that neither you, nor I, nor anyone you know will live forever. For some of us, this may indeed be the last new year we have the pleasure of celebrating. Don’t be cocky. Don’t behave as though you’re invincible because the immutable truth is that you aren’t.

So, savor every moment you have. Tell your love ones how much they mean to you. Work hard. Play hard. Don’t leave tasks for tomorrow that you can do today. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted because things can change in an instant. Acknowledge that forever hasn’t been allotted to you and take the finite time you have on this earth to make it a little bit better. And maybe a bit more neighborly.

-Monique

* Not her real name

I just made my first loan payment

…after deferring my student loans for the past year and I feel a little bit dead inside. 

It’s sickening how the desire to better oneself through higher education is a decision that may very easily put you in the poor house. 

Yes, it was my choice to attend the fancy, brand-name university. No one forced me to sign my name and my life on the dotted line, so I claim full responsibility for that.

But was it wrong of me to want to invest in myself? Was it wrong for me to, just once, want the best of something and not have to settle for “good enough”?

That being said, I don’t regret my  decision to attend a prestigious (read: expensive) institution; I received the type of education I had been dreaming of my entire life. 

Still, it’s demoralizing for society to tell a child from a city where there’s very little hope of upward mobility that college is her only way out and then make it impossible to afford.

Like the carrot dangled in front of a hungry horse’s mouth, yanked away if ever the horse gets too close, so the dream of a better life eludes those who need it most.

You can get ahead in the world, so long as you (or your parents) have the money to pay for it. And if you don’t, God help you. 

Old Ending + New Beginning

My internship with Tinybop has officially come to an end. It feels like I’d just started there yesterday, but 8-ish months have passed. I can’t believe it. 

I’ll never forget my time there, my lovely coworkers, or the amazing work I got to be part of. They’re really innovating the educational media landscape and I got to see it up-close (and put in my little two-cents where needed).

Now here I am on Monday morning, heading to my first day at my new position. I’ll be working with kindergarteners throughout NYC as part of this massive research undertaking. Thankfully, the whole month of September is dedicated to training, so I and my cohort of 23 other facilitators won’t be seeing the kiddos until October.

I would liken what I’m feeling this moment to first-day-of-school jitters; I’m full of nervous excitement and I think it shows. Still, I’m ready to see where this next adventure takes me. 

Wish me luck!

Doing the Most

I have a lot going on at the moment and in spite of myself (and the exhaustion I’m battling daily), I kinda like it this way. It’s all too easy for me to fall into idleness in the form of an endless cycle of Netflix and naps, so spreading myself a little thin for a couple of months is a welcome test in elasticity.

As I’ve been horrible at blog upkeep (oops), you have no idea what I’ve been up to, so here’s a not-so-quick recap:

  • I’m still interning at the educational media company I’ve been with since January, but I leave at the end of August because:
    • I’ll be starting a new position on August 31st as a Math Facilitator for kindergarteners as part of this interesting longitudinal, NYC-wide research project. I’m SUPER excited about it.
  • I’m taking a GRE prep course because:
    • I’ll be applying to masters programs in educational media/technology for Fall 2016.
    • Relearning math has been especially challenging, as I’d only taken one math class in college (Statistics, in which I got a shiny “D” ), but it’s slooowly coming back to me.
  • I was also planning on applying for a Fulbright grant to teach English in Sri Lanka, but I’ve decided to postpone it for the time being.
    • Maybe next year!
  • I’m on my church’s scholarship committee and we’ve been hard at work preparing for the application process to begin.
    • This is our scholarship’s first year back following a short hiatus, so I’m excited to see how we do.
  • I’m improving my eating habits and exercising (almost) daily before work.
    • I’ve already started seeing results. *flexes muscles*
  • I’m learning how to skateboard!
    • I’ve been going to an adult beginner skateboarding class (yes, those exist) and it’s SO MUCH FUN.

So, THAT’S what’s been sapping up all of my time and energy as of late. I’m literally doing the most, but I’m pretty content with it. The one thing I wish I had more time for is writing. Though, not as GRE essay prep or personal statement drafts; I miss writing fiction and screenplays and random blogposts about nothing. Here’s to trying to squeeze that into my already packed days.

A Lesson in Karma During 4th Grade Science

Did I tell you about the time my 4th grade science teacher put a curse on me? Yeah, that happened.

She was a slender thing, with dark skin and darker hair that was always tied in a low, thick ponytail, not unlike an actual pony’s tail: Ms. C. I remember exactly what she looked like, but for the sake of a good story I want you to picture Zoe Saldaña with glasses and anger issues.

Anyway, Ms. C was lecturing our class again on something “bad” we had done. I’m putting “bad” in quotation marks because I doubt that whatever deplorable thing took place was serious enough to warrant a 20+ minute talking-to, but then again, I remember Ms. C being quite the humorless individual. This part of her character, an utter lack of a funny bone, saddened me because she was one of the youngest teachers at our school. Unfortunately, she was no ally of ours.

Back to the story at hand: Ms. C was yelling at us, wasting all of our sweet time and putting us at a great academic disservice. I recognized that my peers and I could have been learning about the Earth, maybe even sparking a future career interest in geology in one or all of us, but instead a finger, a bony finger was being wagged at us. So, like all children past, present, and future in the process of being scolded, we stared blankly, counted our teeth, thought about why we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway; our minds were everywhere, but there.

When she finally wrapped up this speech, I was put in a mindset of praise. So much so, that before I had the chance to think about what I was doing, a whispered, but emphatic “Thank GOD!” escaped my lips.

“Who said that?! Who said ‘thank God’?! WHO?!”, Ms. C growled. Maybe this is the right place to note that I attended a parochial elementary school. Thanking God was serious business there, so saying it in the context in which I’d just done it was not small potatoes.

Ms. C scanned around the room for a tell, a crack in the facade, of the guilty party, but we were a bunch of (angelically) poker-faced 4th graders. In my heart, I’d hoped she’d just let it go, shake it off, etc. However, she took the situation from 0 – 100 (real quick) and threatened that if the perpetrator wasn’t named, we’d be missing recess.

Now, if there’s one thing that elementary school students value most during the school day, it’s recess: The daily opportunity to step outside of the educational assembly line and be children. You take away recess, you take away what separates kids from lower species, like adults. To my surprise, no one called me out (Though, one boy did look at me, but I shooed him with a “Boy-if-you-don’t-turn…” look.) and I’ll forever be grateful for that fact.

Still, I wasn’t going to allow my classmates to be punished for my compulsion to add commentary to everything, so I took a deep breath and put my hand straight up. Ms. C looked at me and twisted her face into a wry smile. “Okay,” she started.

At this point, I was scared. Not of the impending punishment, mind you. I was fearful of the possibility that she’d go off on yet another angry tangent. My little heart wouldn’t have been able to take two of those in one day.

“Okay, just remember that whatever you say or do is going to come right back to you. It’s called karma, boys and girls, and it always comes back,” she stared straight at me with the final three words, “to get you.

Silence.

Me, in my head: Is she threatening me? Who would say this to a child? And why is she bringing Eastern philosophy into this decidedly Catholic environment?

And that was the end of that. She gave us an abridged lesson and then dismissed us (even me!) for recess.

Every now and then since that day, I think back to Ms. C’s karma talk and wonder if what goes around had indeed come around and punished me, yet. For the longest while I didn’t think so: life’s been pretty good to me. But, now that I think of it, I bet Ms. C is the reason I’m allergic to peanuts. Yeah, that’s it.

Sleepy & Filterless (A Life Update)

Sorry in advance for any typos, continuity issues, run-on sentences, or overall foolishness; the title of this post is an accurate description of my present state of existence.

———-

It’s been a mighty long while since I’ve made a post here (my apologies, I’ve been distracted), though I’m ready to change that right now. You see, I should be doing my hair and making sure it’s somewhat presentable for church tomorrow, but I haven’t the energy nor the patience to make that happen without my tufts of tangled coils ending up as litter in my carpet. I am in NO condition to wield a detangling comb, so I’m just going to put on my satin bonnet and call it a night in that department.

Now, back to whatever it is that’s happening right now with this blog post. I guess I could fill you in on what I’ve been up to lately. Since early January I’ve been interning (yes, I’m a postgrad intern, again) at an educational media company in Brooklyn. My primary role is to assist with research and educational content development. I’m really enjoying my time there; the employees are super kind and approachable and I love the work I’m doing. As I’ve noted in a previous post, educational media and technology are the career fields I’m most interested in pursuing, so this has been a fantastic opportunity to learn and get my proverbial foot in a proverbial door of some sort.

I meant to talk about this earlier, but I guess I forgot: Around the time I was offered this intern position, I was also offered a full-time position with a well-respected nonprofit organization, which I turned down. While it was an exciting thing to field my first big-girl, full-time, salaried & benefitted job offer, I wasn’t excited about the position. If I had said yes, it would’ve been solely for the notoriety of the organization and the money. I’ve never been one to allow money or other people’s opinions of me dictate my decisions and I wasn’t going to start then. So, rather than the safe/sensible choice, I chose the risky part-time internship that pays only slightly above minimum wage and probably won’t hire me afterwards.

Call me a hopeless career romantic, but I think love is more important than money when it comes to work. The majority of your waking hours are spent at work, so it’s in your best interest to at least like what you do. Also, I figured if I can’t take a career risk now when I have very little to worry about (beginning of my career, no dependents, no bills other than loan repayments and a credit card with a $500 limit), then there’d be no way I’d be able to take risks further down the line when there’d be more at stake. All in all, I think I made a pretty solid decision.

I should also say that in addition to my internship, I took on a part-time position at a fancy NYC preschool earlier this month. There, I help with administrative stuff and substitute in classes when a teacher is out sick. My initial application was to be considered for a full-time associate educator position for next year, but they needed someone promptly, so I stepped in. I’m still being considered for full-time, though it’s nice to (a.) get a feel for the school environment beforehand and (b.) become well-known to teachers and administrators so they’ll want to keep me around. Hanging out with 2- through 5-year olds everyday isn’t all that bad either.

Should I talk about my sister, too? She’s doing well! It’s been 5-ish months since she finished her last cycle of chemo and she went back to work in January. She’s also going to CancerCon in Colorado next month. I’m so very proud of her.

So, that’s my life in a sleepy, filterless nutshell. There’s lots more I could write about, but if I’m not asleep within the next 15 minutes I will be very unpleasant to deal with, come morning. Good night!

Love

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but after all of the craziness that made 2014 a year of unmerited struggle (with pockets of beauty strewn in), I have decided to make one. Now, this isn’t your typical “lose weight” or “read more books” resolution, as those are things I intend to do that go without saying. The resolution—or more accurately, goal for growth—that I’ve made for myself is the result of much thought, meditation, and prayer over this closing year:

My growth goal for 2015 is to love better and more fully.

What does that mean? Well, it means a lot of things; it’s an intentionally vague statement that encompasses a world of change, but I’ll do my best to dissect it.

I’ve been reading through the Bible on a (nearly) daily basis for some time now and a few days ago, I came upon 1 John 4. That chapter, which speaks extensively about love, captivated me in a way that, even now, I have trouble putting in words. So much so, that I reread it (and re-meditated on it) two additional days before moving on to the next chapter. What stood out to me most was how love, real love, was never described as an emotion. All love was tied to action and sacrificial action, at that. It reminded me of a saying I’d heard somewhere about love not being love unless it costs you something…

There were two main types of love described in this chapter. The first: God’s love for us. The second: the love we should have for others. The love that God showed us in sacrificing His Son for us should affect us deeply, especially in regards to how we love those around us. And not just those around us that we like or enjoy the company of, we should share this love with everyone. (Yes, that includes the annoying, horrible, ignorant, racist, sexist people, too.) I know this is a difficult thing to hear and subsequently apply to one’s life, but it’s a precursor to loving God. We are said to all be made in the image of God, so if you hate the people you see around you, who have bits of God in them, you can’t love Him, whom you cannot see.

So, in terms of my growth goal, I want to love God, others, and myself better and more fully. I want to love recklessly and without fear of that love going unrequited. I want people to think I’m crazy for treating others with genuine kindness and respect even after they’ve been insufferable to me. I want to love.

In The Time Since

In the time since I wrote my last full-length post, I’ve started writing a handful of other blog posts. Good, right? Yes, except for the minor fact that they’re all sitting incomplete in my drafts folder. I don’t know why, but I start each of those posts with a vigor, an inner excitement about being able to put my thoughts and feelings into words and share them with you. Though, somewhere along the line, I look at what I’ve written and all I see is facile, simplistic word-vomit that I couldn’t possibly publish.

Looking back at the types of things I had begun writing about (dealing with rejection, the folly of expectation, the thing you fear most), I realize that they’re actually very thoughtful topics and not simplistic at all. What’s been happening, I think, is that I’ve been unconsciously employing a defense mechanism, here. See, I’m an extremely private person, so whenever I wish to write about something personal or intimate I have many levels of self-preservative mechanism to surpass before that can happen.

In the time since I’ve been home (yep, still funemployed), I’ve been riddled with quite a bit of insecurity and self-doubt; even in areas that I tended to be fairly confident about, like my writing ability. I’m in a rut, though it’s a good one. Not “good” in the sense that I like to feel this way, but that it’s forced me to see both myself and the world in a new light. For example, I’ve learned—really learned—that my worth as a human isn’t diminished by my joblessness. My value isn’t determined by what I do or don’t have or what I can or can’t do.

My worth is in the fact that I merely exist. I’m valuable because God made me and He loves me and He says I’m valuable. And I can live with that.

—-

I can also live with the fact that this post may not be very cohesive and that it went in a completely different direction than I anticipated. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Unemployed and Okay With That*

My name is Monique and I’m an unemployed Ivy League graduate.

When you’re done laughing at me (and the disrespectful amount of debt I’m in), I’ll tell you the story of how I ended up this way and how I’m responding to my current reality.

Let’s go back to my final semester of college…

I was in the process of applying for a one-year educational fellowship in Boston and things were looking very positive. The program was through a network of charter schools that spanned kindergarten through 12th grade. The specific group of students I would’ve been tutoring/mentoring were rising 5th graders in a pilot program to implement technology use into their learning. This was a seemingly perfect position for me, as I had recently recognized my desire to pursue a career in educational media and technology. It’s the perfect mix of my two main passions: Cognitive Development and Media.

Fully cognizant of the fact that a fellowship stipend ≠ a job paycheck, I decided to find a paid summer internship in order to help leverage the minuscule income I’d be bringing in during my fellowship year. So, I applied to, interviewed for, and received an offer to work as a (very handsomely paid) Summer Assistant at an educational technology company until the end of August, right when the fellowship was to begin. Considering how quickly everything happened and the fact that this internship was completely relevant to my career path of choice, I do not doubt that there was some divine intervention occurring. Shortly after I accepted the internship offer, I received an offer for the fellowship. Perfect, right?!

Wrong.

Around the time that I began at my summer internship, my older sister began chemotherapy for lymphoma. It was the first time I’d ever seen her so weak and vulnerable and scared. It was difficult. I realized then just how necessary it was for me to be there for her while she was being treated. As much as I wanted to move away from home and begin my career/adult life in Boston this Fall, my first adult decision was to turn down the fellowship offer to remain close to home during my first year post-grad, in order to support my sister; And I don’t regret it one bit.

My lovely internship ended on the last day of August and, unfortunately, didn’t lead to full-time employment. In the ensuing week-and-a-half, I’ve rested and begun applying for positions. I had an in-person interview on Monday with an organization I’d love to work for and I’m waiting to hear back from them. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to be out of work and a little scary, after 16 years of formal education where I always knew exactly what my next step would be, to have literally no idea what the future holds for me. But y’know what? It’s kind of exhilarating, too.

* = Okay with that until November, when my grace period ends and I have to begin repaying my loans.