The Musings of a Recent Graduate

My blog absence of late may or may not have gone unnoticed, but either way I’ve decided to try to sum up the reasoning behind it. You see, my dear readers, I am now a member of a group of people known as “Recent Graduates,” and thus feel a bit discombobulated and unsure of things. Let’s see if I can explain…

I’m at this awkward standstill in my life right now. I’ve freshly graduated college and now find myself flooded with mixed messages on the appropriate next steps. On one side, there are those who suggest taking time off and relaxing for a bit before diving into a full-time career. To me, this sound like a euphemism for what they’re really thinking: “You graduated with no job lined up? Oh how sad.” On the other hand, there is the constant societal  (not to mention parental) pressure to find a job, start a career, and start work on the rest of my life.

And so I’m at an uncomfortable, and unique, point in my life where the trail seems to fork and I know I must choose one or the other, the detour or the straight path. Yet, I can’t help but dillydally on my current path of indecision. I look around me and I realize how truly rare of a situation I am in.

For the majority of my life, summers were a time of limited work and of much need relaxation in between a regularly scheduled school year. Now, summer has become just another time when I should be employed—but I’m not.

I just recently accepted to work full-time at my back-up summer job—you know the deal: the place I’ve worked at since high school; the place that has no bearing on my real career, but at least provides me with a constant stream of minimum wage paychecks. My immediate thought upon accepting to “work everyday” in response to my bosses oh-so-professional text message was my own very eloquent: “Shit, I’m screwing myself over, aren’t I?” What happens if I get stuck in this rut?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been steadily applying to jobs, but with no success. It’s gotten to the point where I yearn for even a rejection letter. The application process is so impersonal, most of which is done online by submitting word documents that will some how accurately reflect who you are to a future employer.

With the economy and the influx of new graduates, I can only assume that companies are swarming with excess applicants—myself included. After all, how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? A witty cover letter? A spectacular list of work experience? All of this requires the hirer to look beyond an initial scan of the hundreds/thousands of applicants.

People are constantly assuring me that “something will show up” and “good for you, take some time off.” Little do they know how uncomfortable I feel about the whole situation. I feel like a disappointment for graduating without a job—I was a great student who really excelled in classes and graduated top of my major. While I am happy to have some rest and relaxation (interspersed with the good old ‘summer job’), I feel so unsteady. I want to settle back into some sort of routine in which I know where I’ll be come fall.

Ideally, I would still be in classes, but school is expensive and I’ve got enough loans to pay for the time being. And so I just sit around, waiting for my real life to start, and in the meantime I’ll go through the motions I’ve gone through every other summer. In addition, I’ll diligently apply to more and more jobs where I will undoubtedly be overlooked for a more qualified and experienced candidate. So as my friends carry on with their regularly scheduled lives—jobs, training, school—I find myself in this uncomfortable slump wondering: just where do I belong?

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ECG PR: Some Mandatory Boasting

Yesterday was the culmination of our semester long PR campaign for the East Coast Greenway (see previous post). We held an event called Mother’s Day on the Greenway, celebrating families everywhere and encouraging them to get out, spend some time together, and take a walk/ride on the ECG. I was happy with the event, mainly because people seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. My group and I worked very hard to put everything together and couldn’t have done it without the help of the ECG Alliance.
To top it all off, we got some great media coverage. Not only did we get great support and coverage pre-event, thanks to email listings, community calendars, and local papers, but we also managed to make it onto the news.
WPRI Fox Providence news showed up and did a 45 second slot on our event. Group member Samantha Eckel did a great job handling an interview and we’re all very proud of how it turned out. So, for the sake of bragging, I’ve embedded the video into this post. I couldn’t be more proud of our group and the work we did for, and leading up to, this event. Rarely has a group worked so well together– meshing perfectly by each bringing our own specialties to the table.

For more information about the East Coast Greenway I urge you to check out their website.

A Professional Student’s Laments

Please forgive the lack of modesty here, but I’m a good student. Or rather, I’m good at being a student.

I breathe ‘A’s and eat compliments for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These things are simply important to me, and thus I’ve taught myself to be the best possible student I can. I’m not trying to say I’m smarter than all of my peers who get ‘B’s and ‘C’s, for I certainly know that is not the case. I am, however, saying that I’ve mastered the skill of studenting (let’s pretend that’s a verb for a bit).

Maybe it’s my PR mentality, but I’ve learned to position each assignment to the professor who has assigned it. I don’t mean this in a manipulative sense, since I never lie, cheat, or steal to get an ‘A.’ I simply observe. I realize that in one class, including a paragraph about politics in an essay would be beneficial, while if I had that same assignment with a different teacher, I might use an example tied in with family. You can learn much about teachers and their values by simply paying attention. I don’t bend my own beliefs when I position my work, I simply highlight what I know they would find most important and appealing.

More than that, I’ve perfected my own personal studying techniques. I know what works for me (writing, and rewriting, and rewriting my notes again), and I put effort into it.

I guess what I’m saying is, it took me long enough, but ever since I’ve entered college I’ve developed into what I can only refer to as a “Professional Student.”

And now it’s time for me to retire.

I graduate this upcoming May, and while I’ve been liberally applying to jobs, I’ve been unsuccessful as of yet. My fear, even if/when I  get a job, is that I simply won’t excel at it. I know how to be a good student. Years of training and practice and I’ve mastered the art. But now I’m being thrown into a whole other shark tank, where a  high GPA  could quite possibly be as meaningless as a bicycle to a fish (I hope everyone enjoys the aquatic theme of that last sentence).

I know many of my peers who, despite being nervous about getting out into the real world, are incredibly relieved to be done with their school careers. I, however, am hesitant. What if I can’t find success in a workplace? What if my best talents are those of being a student? I’m sure some of my skills will transfer, but I’m going to need to learn to play by a whole different set of rules.

While the concept of being  a Professional Student for the rest of my life has crossed my mind (think Buster from Arrested Development, minus the mother complex), I realize that I’ll be broke enough after graduating from my 4-years here to even think about any more schooling for a while. I may go back to graduate school, but I can’t go simply because I want to stay in school. I need to have a reason and a goal. I need to find a specific area of work that I enjoy and, hopefully, excel in. Then I can build on that.

So while I enjoy my last couple months of professional studenting (again, we’re pretending it’s a verb), I look with trepidation upon the future. Is it possible that I can someday drop the ‘student’ and learn to simply be a ‘professional’?

Stumbled Upon: “Porphyria’s Lover”

Growing up in a family like mine, a love of literature was engrained in me from a young age. Therefore, despite a Comm Major and Psych Minor, I’ve filled my course electives with Literature classes (I was supposed to fulfill a Lit Minor as well, but due to a misunderstanding, this unfortunately fell through). My current Lit class, that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, is a British Literature Course. We read a variety of work, and my greatest regret is that we lack the proper amount of time to really dive into some of the pieces. Today, however, I was thankful that we spent the majority of the class discussing a new favorite poem of mine.

While best known in his day for being the husband of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning has since cultivated a large following. His poems often feature a dramatic monologue and psychologically jarring scenes. The poem “Porphyria’s Lover” (1843) is a perfect example of his masterful techniques.

While the subject of “Porphyria’s Lover” is morbid and disturbing, I found this work to be incomparably interesting. My mind raced with backstories and explanations. Our class discussion focused on identifying motive and answering the ever-present: “Why?”

If you haven’t read the poem, you haven’t the slightest idea of what I’m talking about right now. Therefore, I’ve decided to share the poem as just a little something I’ve “stumbled upon.” I’d love to hear other people’s to this psychological thriller of a poem.


 

Porphyria’s Lover

Robert Browning

THE rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listen’d with heart fit to break. 5
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneel’d and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form 10
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soil’d gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And call’d me. When no voice replied, 15
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair, 20
Murmuring how she loved me—she
Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me for ever. 25
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain. 30
Be sure I look’d up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipp’d me; surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do. 35
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around, 40
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laugh’d the blue eyes without a stain. 45
And I untighten’d next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blush’d bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propp’d her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore 50
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorn’d at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gain’d instead! 55
Porphyria’s love: she guess’d not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirr’d,
And yet God has not said a word! 60

An ‘Award-Winning’ Catch-22 Essay

It has nothing to do with Public Relations, social media, or any of the normal topics of my posts, but some things just need to be shared (and celebrated). Today I found out that an essay I wrote one 3rd prize in a contest. While the $50 prize is pretty great, I’m honestly most excited for the recognition.

Sometimes, as you write a paper, you just get this overwhelming feeling of confidence. This is how I felt with my paper Introducing John: Yossarian as an Everyman. The essay was on the novel Catch-22. While I had read the book long ago on my own (and not particularly liked it, actually), I decided last semester to take the one-credit class being offered on Joseph Heller’s literary classic. In the end, I’m glad I took the course. While Catch-22 will never be my favorite book, I understand its significance and importance in the literary sphere.

I’m proud of my paper and proud of my experiences in the class. Therefore, I’ve decided to post the paper. A bit of self-publication, if you will. So whether you read it, skim it, or ignore it all together– here is my “award-winning” essay!

Introducing John: Yossarian as an Everyman

By Tessa Rickart

In a 1962 interview, Joseph Heller described the protagonist of his novel Catch-22: “You know, he’s not a perfect hero. There are certain things he does of which I don’t approve…I certainly didn’t want him to become the ideal hero. He’s human…” Yossarian’s association with the common man may not be immediately apparent, partially due to his poignantly ethnic last name, by which he is almost exclusively referred to. However, he is an ‘everyman,’ and it is through his actions and decisions that the ability to relate is first possible. Despite being the obvious main character of Catch-22, Yossarian’s weak, and often questionably unethical behaviors make it difficult to designate him as the novel’s protagonist, a role that usually requires bravery and evokes admiration. But Yossarian’s choices and motivations are characteristic of neither a coward nor a hero. Similar to most human beings, he cannot be categorized into either of these narrow divisions. Yossarian is complex and thus relatable, a point that is conspicuously made when we finally learn his first name—John.

“ What the hell kind of name is Yossarian?” (78)
It may initially seem odd that a blatantly American novel such as Catch-22 stars a protagonist with such an ethnically charged surname by which he is primarily identified. Colonel Cathcart comments on the uncommon name: “There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It was like the word subversive itself. It was like seditious and insidious too, and like socialist, suspicious, fascist and Communist. It was an odious, alien, distasteful name…” (210). Heller expected readers to have a similar reaction to the obscurity of the name. It certainly is foreign, and in a novel centered on an American battalion in World War II, the unfamiliar name seems even more distant. The Colonel continues his criticism of Yossarian’s name and its un-American roots: “It was not at all like such clean, crisp, American names…” (210). Later on, Cathcart is present when Yossarian’s stereotypically American first name is finally revealed. The late inclusion of his first name, as well as his exotic surname, is by no means accidental. In sharp contrast to the last name Yossarian, is his first name—John. The popularity of this name is not lost on the reader. As one of the most common names in the United States, John represents our own ability to empathize with the bombardier, therefore making him an ‘everyman.’

“ ‘What bombs?’ answered Yossarian” (30)
Perhaps most questionable is Yossarian’s concern for his own safety, a priority that gradually becomes his chief concern: “Only a fraction of his countrymen would give up their lives to win it, and it was not his ambition to be among them” (68). His commitment to self-preservation may seem selfish, yet it is undeniably rational. The moral ambiguity rises from his commitment as a solider to lay down his life for his country. Putting one’s self in a similar position, however, his yearning to stay alive is understandable, even if it might be considered cowardly. However, his extreme determination to live leads to some questionably unethical decisions when he jeopardizes military missions. Yossarian goes as far as sabotaging missions: “Something was terribly wrong if everything was all right and they had no excuse for turning back…Yossarian took hold of the colored wires leading into the jack box of the intercom system and tore them loose” (140). However, some of the missions themselves were unethical; one required the men to blow up a small village whose only crime was poor location. At this point, “Yossarian no longer gave a damn where his bombs fell…” (330).

“Someone had to do something sometime.” (405)
Eventually, Yossarian refuses to fly any more missions. The crew is faced with an ever-rising mission quota, and his protest is an attempt to “break the lousy chain of inherited habit that was imperiling them all” (406). This moral stance requires courage. Even Colonel Korn acknowledges this bravery when, addressing Yossarian he says, “You’re an intelligent person of great moral character who has taken a very courageous stand” (423). Of course, in Korn’s view this is a criticism. Yossarian’s valor does not escape the notice of his peers, who support and admire him, though only in secret. “During the day, they avoided him,” but at night “people kept popping up at him out of the darkness to ask him how he was doing, appealing to him for confidential information with grey, troubled faces on the basis of some morbid clandestine kinship he had not guessed existed” (402). Yossarian gives them “hope,” says Korn, admitting that whether his flying boycott is motivated by self-protection or morality, Yossarian is nonetheless benefiting the whole (421). In many ways, his refusal to fly is the bravest thing he does and deserves the title of heroic, albeit in an unconventional sense.

“There were no more beautiful days.” (345)
The motivations behind many of Yossarian’s supposedly weak actions (or inactions) often lay in the images of war that burden him. He is fragile; he is haunted; and he is broken. The honesty of his emotions makes them relatable; their depth makes them believable. Looking back on his past actions, Yossarian feels a responsibility for the deaths of his peers: “Yossarian killed Kraft and his crew by taking his flight of six plane in over the target a second time. Yossarian came in carefully on his second bomb run because he was brave then” (136). Yossarian comments as if he lost his courage, but he is tormented by his decisions and can’t bear to be the cause of more despair. All the deaths he has seen make a tremendous impact and plague him constantly: “At night when he was trying to sleep, Yossarian would call the roll of all the men, women, and children he had ever known who were now dead” (345). But of all the deaths and flashbacks, the most vivid are those of Snowden, “freezing to death in the rear section of the plane” as Yossarian “finished sterilizing and bandaging the wrong wound on his leg” (345). In many ways, Yossarian displays the typical symptoms of what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. His frailty makes him more human.

“Your conscious will never let your rest.’
‘Yossarian laughed. ‘I wouldn’t want to live without strong misgivings.’” (452)
The ultimate argument of Yossarian’s cowardice lies in final decision to desert the army. However, the more closely the situation is examined, the more Yossarian is redeemed. Having originally accepted a deal from Korn and Cathcart, a decision he admits to making “in a moment of weakness,” Yossarian is left with few options (441). Taking the deal would be an act of selfishness and cowardice. When discussing his options, Danby notes Yossarian’s courage in comparison to what his own actions would be: “Of course I’d let them send me home! But I’m such a terrible coward I couldn’t really be in your place” (447). Yossarian refuses to sacrifice his morals for the easy way out, a decision that is not always easy to make. A reader can certainly understand the dilemma with which Yossarian is struggling; by staying but refusing to fly he is sure to be court-martialed and jailed. Orr’s escape gives Yossarian new hope, and he decides to desert. This is possibly the only route left without compromising his beliefs: “Desert. Take off. I can turn my back on the whole damned mess and start running” (444). The novel does make a point of the war being mostly over, lessening the ethical dilemma. As Yossarian states, if he stayed he wouldn’t be risking his life for his country, but for Cathcart and Korn (446). Yossarian’s fight for self-preservation appeals to readers’ emotions. His choices and morals are a reflection of what our own choices and morals might be in such a situation, or at least the ones we would hope ourselves capable of.

Whether Yossarian is a brave fool or a smart coward, readers are able to relate to the reality of his emotions, decisions, and values. Many of the stands he takes are incredibly courageous, qualifying him as hero, albeit an unconventional one. Some of his actions may seem unethical, but they are mostly justifiable and, more importantly, understandable. With his exotic surname, Yossarian may not initially seem like the type of character created to be identified with, but Heller knew readers would be able to connect nonetheless. When Heller finally reveals his protagonists first name—John—there is initial surprise at such a traditional moniker. However, as Heller went on to say in his interview, the decision to state Yossarian’s first name at nearly the end of the novel “just puts him right back where he belongs.” And John Yossarian belongs as a symbol of the everyday hero, and the everyday coward, with whom we can all relate and whose actions we all understand.

 

Work Cited

Heller, Joseph. The Realist Interview. Issue No. 39, Nov. 1962. Page 23. Print. 23 Nov 2010.

Heller, Joseph.  Catch-22. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Communications Degree– Will it get you noticed?

As I went online this morning, my home page opened up with its random articles/stories of the day. Usually the articles are insubstantial– celebrity gossip, new recipes, sports news– but this one caught my attention. The title was: “College degrees that get you noticed.”

Always curious to know my chances of success out in the “real world,” I gave it a click to see if Communications was on the list. And behold– it was!

I’ve included the excerpt because I found it interesting:

Communications Degree
Average Starting Salary: $38,200
Average Mid-Career Salary: $72,200

In tough economic times like these, marketing/communications majors will find themselves competing against English and other liberal arts majors for many of the same jobs. The fact that they have a more specialized, career-focused education can be a plus, says HR expert Kelleher.

“The people who succeed in business all have strong communications skills,” says Kelleher. Knowing how to get a company’s message or product out the door will always be a valuable skill, in good economic times or bad, he says.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Public Relations Specialists: $59,370
Market Research Analysts: $67,500
Advertising and Promotions Managers: $97,670
Marketing Managers: $120,070

HR Tip: “Recent graduates who are able to show how their skills have helped solve business problems, whether as part of a school project or internship, and contributed to a successful campaign will most impress hiring managers,” Good said, “particularly if the examples are relevant to the company they are interviewing with.”

Okay, so it’s just a silly article off of my Yahoo! Homepage, but any news is good news.

What do you think? Will a Communications degree impress the boss?

To see the rest of this article and the other featured degrees, click here.