Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Higher Education, part 3 (final)

            This is continued from part 2 which was yesterday, and that was a continuation of part1 from Friday.

            At this point I was half way thru year 6 of my degree program.  Fail to finish an internship for the Planning degree or one level three foreign language for the International Affairs degree and it would all be for nothing.  Since I had no more courses to do otherwise I could no longer justify staying in Tallahassee to finish that foreign language class while looking for an internship.  I headed home.
            Again, I must point out that my parents had been lending me a lot of support thru this.  I was twisting in the wind too often and now I was heading home with 27/10ths of a degree, but only one of them actually being whole.
            For 6 months, I was throwing out applications to every planning and “this could pass for planning, I guess” position I could find in the state.  I ended up with 3 interviews for 50 applications and no takers.  I know that my professor advisor was furrowing her brow at all this because I was a nervous wreck, ticking clocks are not fun to listen to when they are in your own head.
            I ultimately only got noticed because my father works for the government of my hometown, and he told me who’s trees to shake to get me noticed.  I got an unpaid (and previously nonexistent) position with the city’s neighborhood development department.
            I think they made out alright in the exchange.  While I did not have the practical knowledge of someone with years’ experience, they were really in need of staff (they continue to be 1-3 people short of the sort of staffing they would prefer).  I was a graduate level writer and researcher and was able to tear thru several things while over there that otherwise might have been pushed off to another year or just dropped as being beyond what they could furnish.
            My biggest accomplishment was helping to compile and write an Economic Development chapter to the city’s comprehensive plan.  It was apparently so well written that it was dubbed a “shadow government” by the building/planning council.  Being a literal expert in politics and planning, and with the benefit of hindsight, I can say conclusively they did not know what that term means.

Last Class
            Internship completed, I now only needed one class.  ONE CLASS.  An Undergraduate class at that.  But I wasn’t moving back to FSU to take that.  I could not possibly justify the expense of living in Tallahassee for one class and even if I could justify that I wouldn’t be able to afford it, as taking only one class did not qualify as a full-time student and thus no loans.
            I decided I would take the classes as a transfer student at the relatively nearby Florida Gulf Coast University, my undergraduate alma mater.  An hour long ride out to school and an hour back twice a week to take a foreign language course.  I hammered away at Duolingo and Rosetta Stone software to prep myself, not the most formal of educations but I think it did a lot to gear me back up.
            TWIST, turns out spending a year looking for and then doing an internship does not count as being in class so I had to reapply to my programs at Florida State.  I then had to get approval from my department to take the class as a transient student, I then had to get approval from FGCU to take the class, and I needed the professor to approve of such a thing.
            Ultimately, I did manage to jump all those hoops in time to make the class (though they did charge me a penalty for being a late register).  What is funny is one of those steps involved a placement exam.  Even though I had been taking enough French in school to qualify for the class.
            I had at this point taken French 1 twice (once having failed to pass), then taking and passing French 2, and was trying to get into French 3 after having already failed to pass it.  All of that and I had been studying my old notes, and my old text book, and Duo Lingo, and Rosetta Stone.  I suck at foreign languages if you haven’t guessed.  I wish I had more affinity for mathematics which apparently, that is all I have a true knack for.
            At that time, I could read a newspaper article in French, I know I could because I did in order to study.  I took a placement exam and performed SO POORLY that I would have done better marking all answers “C”.  I did so bad that it said I was unqualified to be in French 1.  Luckily, the Professor understood this was my only class and knew that I was on the hook for a Master’s program and would be working hard on it.  She let me file, kind of out of pity.
            This is also where I started entering a “Twilight Zone” of sorts.  Going back to classes with people who were more than 10 years younger than me was surreal.  Even though I look younger than I am (so long as I shave), I don’t sound like a 20-year-old.  And while I got along with everyone in the class, I did not connect.  I was distant the whole time in spite of my efforts to talk to people about FSU and grad school should they consider it in the future.
            Ultimately, I passed the class.  Though I was so stressed by the end that the Professor was legit concerned and assuring me that I was doing fine.

Getting back in Shape
            I had during this time been slowly getting back down to the weight I wanted.  After ballooning up to 270 at the height of being a stressed out blob I had started walking more, and hitting the gym, but could make any real progress, getting down to 260 but staying there for 6 months.  The autumn before I went back to French I recommitted to change that.
            I bought a Fitbit that was on sale for Black Friday (or Black Thanksgiving Evening now as people could not wait for that sweet rush of buying things to fill the hole in them caused by the hollow core that is Neo-Liberal-Capitalism) and began walking daily thousands of steps and tracking my diet in order to lose weight.
            I lost 10 pounds in 50 days and another 10 pounds in the 2 months following that.  Since then I have only lost another 2-5, but I am back in the 235-240 area and have been going to the gym in addition to walking.
            I know this is not all that much to do with school and all but it is a big shift.  Learning to get in shape and stay in shape is something I never really mastered.  I worked in bursts my whole life, spurred on by random instances.  This last 10 months of maintaining so much regular activity is a major change to who I was.

Looking for Work
            During French and after I continued to look for work.  This time looking for permanent positions rather than having to advertise my need to finish out degrees.  I applied to 40 or so, and got 3 interviews.  Though much stronger interviews than in the past.  Needless to say, my perspective had changed, I was losing weight instead of gaining, I had my degrees instead of getting them, and I didn’t have to limit myself to certain types of work, I could apply to any government position that fit my skill sets and pivot from those positions as my needs and skills developed.  My ability to sell my skills had been augmented by having documented skills to sell.
            It should serve as a semi-poetic chapter to this blog that last Friday, the day that was 10 years after taking the GRE, I got my first job since finishing Graduate school.  There is of course the background check (makes sense) and the physical (something I find perplexing for an employer to ask for) and then I will slide in.  Finally having a wall to hang my freshly framed degrees on.
            My city is about to start its largest transformation ever, more development is expected in the next two years than during any period than the housing bubble which led to the great recession (this time it will be sustainable development and not a catastrophe the world over… Fingers crossed).  I will get to do what I was training for in some of the most intense conditions available for it.
            Good thing too.  I have a lot of student debt to pay off.  Just like everyone else my age.

            This should go without saying but this little outline of my last decade is shallow.  4,000 words does not include all the details, good and bad of my life over the last 10 years and there are some sections in these blogs that could be books unto themselves (the Police section and my Political Internship for my first Masters spring to mind immediately).
            Maybe one of these days I will write it all out for a book no one will buy called something like, “A Millennial’s Perspective”.  I will have to do it about 10 years after my generation becomes the one in charge, all of us wondering why all the younger generations keep killing off arcane social conventions and businesses.
            We’ll have lost touch with the protracted war that caused so many of our classmates to come back drained, the natural disasters that kept sinking cities, or the economic implosion that nobody got in trouble for and no one learned anything from.
            Maybe the next ten years will be better.

            Maybe I’ll be better.

1 comment:

  1. I honestly think that instead of a nonfiction book you might want to try your hand at a novel. I think some of your experiences would serve as good inspiration for a creative work of realistic fiction.