All posts in: grad school

05 Jun 2012

new life, new notebook

You know what they always say:

when life hands you lemons, go out and buy a fancy notebook.

I haven’t kept a daily notebook like this in quite some time. Grad school has been a mix of self-created spreadsheets and printed schedules and elaborate systems with binders and note cards and color coded things.

Yes, there is still the Google calendar, which was necessary to balance three jobs, but there is a limit to what the GCal can do. It can tell you where to be and when to be there, but it can’t tell you what to do in the in betweens. It can’t keep you on track, longterm, when your days and weeks become less regimented and begin to blur together.

Enter: the daily Moleskine. One page per day for to-do lists, chores, schedules, dinner menus, books to read, notes, recipes, phone numbers. A place to write down what time you need to set your alarm or leave for the bus. A place to flip through the upcoming week and map out your free time. A place to practice your penmanship. To draw little pictures. To scheme. To scribble things out.

To sit down and think about what’s important in my week.

This is a luxury, maybe. Something I didn’t have time for while I was studying, something I didn’t find useful. But for now, I can, and I feel like I should.

A new notebook is good for my soul, I think. Without a pen on paper in my life, I feel like I might drift away.

29 May 2012

2012: week twenty-one

May 20 – May 26

I do not much remember what happened on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, because on Friday, my favorite roommate returned to Boston for a long weekend. Since leaving, she has become A FULL-FLEDGED, CARD-CARRYING CHILDREN’S LIBRARIAN, so we had a lot to talk about. And a lot of food to eat. And a lot of Pictionary to play.

Also, there was a wedding! A wedding so epically perfect to wipe out one’s memory of anything that has happened other than the wedding, (although the unlimited champagne did not help). Two of my dear friends (who you might remember from this post) did indeed tie the knot, and it was equal parts decadent, irreverent, and completely romantic. I laughed, I cried, there was a cappella music. So, so happy for them.

I could use a bit of a recovery period, but alas, life continues to steamroll on. Blogging will be light this week, as I am preparing for another Big Job interview – this time, an all-day affair! Fun stuff – cross your fingers for me so I, too, can begin carrying my Librarian card.



Listening to:

  • Okay for Now on audio. Not too far into it, yet, but there is something pleasing about the way the narrator says “Joe Pepitone”


22 May 2012

notes from the job hunt, vol 1

I. The Numbers

I have been applying for jobs for nearly three months now. In that time, I have applied for thirty positions.

Out of thirty, I have received…

  • One Skype interview
  • One phone interview
  • One follow-up phone call
  • One job offer (my new part-time job)
  • Four rejections

The remaining 23 jobs are, supposedly, still on the table – including the two aforementioned phone calls.

II. What I am Looking For

I am still pursuing positions that will move me on my desired career trajectory; youth/teen librarian positions at major public libraries or in major urban areas. I am also applying for non-librarian positions here and there – literacy non-profits, literary publications, etc.

However, the closer September 1 draws, the more pragmatic the job hunt becomes. The reality of staying in New England – within driving distance of Mr. Teacher Fiance’s job – seems more likely. Recently, I have honed in on the Western Mass/Northern Connecticut region, and also started applying for academic advising positions in the Boston area.

III. What I’ve Learned

If anyone says “Oh, at least you got the experience!” after I get a job rejection post-interview, I want to cut them. Losing out on a job you really want feels exactly like a break up – the barrage of internal self-loathing, the random tears, the loss of hope for the future. But it passes more quickly… maybe break ups would go smoother if you knew you had to find a new man before September 1 so you wouldn’t be homeless? Anywayy… the objective “experience” of job interviews is probably valuable. However, it’s intangible – it’s not like you can put “I had 35 GREAT job interviews!” on your resume.

What is valuable, to me, is what I learn from all aspects of the application process. Assessing what jobs I’m drawn to and figuring out how better to select future positions. Looking at which resumes and cover letters are the ones that get a follow-up… and then, during that follow-up, what questions do the reviewers have – aka, what did you FORGET to put in there? This is all comforting, helpful, and make me feel like I’m moving forward at least.

IV. What I’m Doing Now

  • Re-discovering my personality

I had an interview awhile ago for a job I really would have liked. I wasn’t really confident throughout the interview because I’d prepared for something entirely different than what I encountered. I dreamed up impressive answers to generic but intense interview questions, I studied the library in question intensely, I thought big thoughts about librarianship. And I’m glad I did all this because now I have an entirely different view of where I want to go in the field and what kind of jobs can get me there… but no. These questions were hard. These questions were abstract. These questions were “Tell me about a moment when you felt XXX about yourself.”

I was interviewing after a full day’s work during a particularly hectic week. A hectic 50 hour week. It occurred to me, at this inopportune moment, that I had spent the semester focused so intently on resume-building and job hunting and working my ass off, I was too tired to be an individual. My hobbies? Listening to podcasts on the bus. My favorite part of the day? Sleeping like the dead.

  • Adjusting my job hunting strategy to a new schedule

I have more free time now to do such things as, oh, revive my personality. Yay! I also have less time where I am at jobs that chain me to a computer for extended periods of time. Oh, cooking and cleaning and showering and playing Skyrim is nice and all, but I can already feel myself checking out a bit… I need to figure out a way to stay motivated while working ONLY 30-40 hours/week.



I will probably update this later… UNLESS I just get a job in the next few weeks and my job hunt is exceedingly easy. But who am I kidding? I will surely think of something else to say before then, either way. I will probably have some kind of existential crisis and then 24 hours later get a job. That is just how I roll.

20 May 2012


My family is the bomb. My sister flew in on Wednesday to see where/how I live – her first solo flight, first trip to Boston. My aunt and cousin came in on Wednesday as well, to sight-see and eat every strange Boston-based-concoction known to man. On Thursday, my mother and father and other two sisters, my grandmother and grandfather, all arrived in the city, so that on Friday, the bunch of them could watch me spend 15 seconds walking across the stage at the Bank of America pavilion.

Festivities included a trip to the bar, a social brunch, observing a television show filming outside Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage while we ate, a quick tour of Harvard, a swan boat ride in the Public Garden, a ghosts and graveyards tour, a walk around the Freedom Trail, Pinkberry, Mike’s Pastry, and a fancy dinner with wine and a tray full of desserts.

All to celebrate the fact that I have busted balls for the past three years working and taking class, gone into debt, teetered on the edge of financial insolvency more than once, and generally have lived like an insane, insane person.

My family traveled from across the country, walked & walked & walked until their blisters got blisters, and skipped out on work and school, just to celebrate my insanity.

Love. I miss them so. All I could think about this whole crazy trip was “when can I get back to Michigan?”

16 May 2012


Taking a few days off from blogging so I can graduate.

Finding a suitable reservation for 12 people on a Friday night during graduation season in a major metropolis is proving stressful. I need a little time to my self.

Here’s hoping that all my graduation pictures look like the previous pic and not like this one:

14 May 2012

2012: week nineteen

May 6 – May 12

I am having trouble acknowledging that my regular-grad-school-life is coming to a close.

Maybe because my schedule has me a bit distracted from the rhythm of academic life. More than once this has bitten me in the butt at work, lately. “Oh, you need your course evaluation packet? In 10 minutes? Offff course….”

Maybe because my schedule has me a bit distracted from… oh… creative/independent thought.

Maybe because I am in deep, deep denial.

Or maybe because my schedule is not coming to a halt, but instead, slowly unraveling. Two more library shifts. Another month or two in the office. But this past week was my last crazy one, Friday was my last day as a writing tutor, and I said goodbye to some of my favorite crazy-undergraduates. There were one, two, three little end of the year parties. Cupcakes. Champagne. One last trip to the Squealing Pig, grad students squished into a too-small booth, ordering one more round.

Next week, we graduate. It is over, it is over.




  • LOST Having watched through to this point a few times, I have a single thought about Season Three: jumped the shark.


29 Mar 2012


The nice thing about being Really Very Busy is that when you are done being busy, it feels really very good.

It takes a little while to realize that you are done being Really Very Busy, but at some point you will find yourself sitting on a couch and saying to yourself “Hmm… I guess I don’t have anything in particular to do for the rest of the day.”

And then you will breathe a deep sigh of relief.

And then you will finally sweep the floor and fold all that laundry and watch that movie that needs to go back to the library and go to the gym and make a soup for dinner.

If you are me.

I have returned to normal amount of busy, which on this particular afternoon means I am revisiting a piece of fiction I have not touched for years in order to prepare to READ IT OUT LOUD IN FRONT OF PEOPLE IN A PUBLIC PLACE.

It’s not too bad. It’s a whole book. There are lots of 10-minute readings that I like, and nobody has to know the rest of the book exists!

So this afternoon, all I have to do is tinker and drink this coffee and try not to look like a sleepless hag,

then read,

then go read,

then go home.

Tomorrow I will wake up and do some other things, and then it will be the weekend.

If you are driving in the dark and can only see as far as your headlights shine, you will still make it home. Or something.


23 Mar 2012

susceptible to hype + a break

When news about the movie and the casting and the posters and the pictures and the trailers and everything else came out, I was indifferent. Books into movies are tricky. I don’t get disappointed, I don’t get invested.

But I have to say, I am having trouble thinking about much else other than my Hunger Games tickets, which will be waiting for me at the box office at 7:30 tomorrow night.

That was a lie, actually. I have a lot a lot A LOT of other things to think about. So much, in fact that, I am going to take my first ever official Blog Break.

First. Ever.

I have been blogging since mid 2003.

I used to scoff at folk who “needed some time away.” Blogging, for me, is more of a sickness than a hobby. I don’t want to stop. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes I don’t post as much as I want to or think I should, but I never WANT to leave it. I want to keep trying. I know I will keep trying.

But this morning, I understood.

In the next week I have to…

  • finish an assignment and a paper
  • pull together a last minute, high-stakes job application with multiple written portions and a video
  • get another I Really Want This Job application together (with essay questions)
  • work on another assignment due a week from Monday
  • do something Really Emotionally Hard (Nothing major, but with my current stress levels? Ack…)

And do all that while maintaining my usual online class stuff, working 30 hours a week, interning, sleeping, feeding myself, etc

I have so much to do and so little time that my procrastination urges are in overdrive. This morning I was sitting around watching 30 Rock after eating breakfast – instead of working on something productive – and The Things I Need To Do were brewing around in my head and then I thought to myself, “Oh, but when will I have time to BLOG!? I need to BLOG!!”

It hit me that no, I actually should probably get a job rather than blogging this week. And that unless I actively step away, tell the universe SEE YOU NEXT THURSDAY, I will come back here and then I will not only be more stressed out, I will not get my shit done.


12 Mar 2012

2012: week ten

March 4 – March 10

 I think the universe knew I was turning ancient at the end of the week and decided that I deserved a break. Everything was turning up roses for Professional Jessica:


+ I got a (part-time summer) job interview

+ My paper is on the wait list for a summer children’s lit conference (that is more than good enough news for me)

+ My first professional blog post went live for the old Internship

+ I finished my second professional blog post for the other old-Internship, which should be posted soon

+ I found out I get to write a REAL review for the print magazine at the old Internship


Non-professionally, I seem to have overcome some of my “I just feel like garbage”-ness that plagued me for a few weeks. I give credit to mainlining Kombucha. Additionally, I seem to have entered a small superhuman phase, during which I just don’t need to sleep. I’m not particularly tired when I go to bed, I kinda lay around, half-awake, half-asleep until well past midnight, and then when my alarm goes off I’m just… awake, like the minor league insomnia never happened.

Maybe (oh just maybe!) my life becomes more manageable when I’m not working 30+ hours/week and doing the late-night thing? Today marks my return to the grind, starting off with a lovely 12-hour day and a paper due at 6. Yay.

But the semester is half over. Whoa.


Listening to:

  • I am obsessed with You Had To Be There and listen to nothing else, except for….
  • …. this song

which I have had on repeat thanks to Faryle. I like the original, too, but you know. A cappella.


  • Kramer vs. Kramer. I read some random article that listed this movie as one of the biggest Best Picture upsets – that in the 70’s divorce was big news, but that the movie doesn’t hold up. I kind of agree, but not because the movie was bad. I just thought that watching Dustin Hoffman play A Single Father!!omg!! wasn’t exactly revolutionary, and Meryl Streep is in like 3 scenes. What’s the big deal?
  • I watched half of Black Swan before the player refused to cooperate. I won’t tell you exactly where it cut out… but it was pretty awkward.
  • The Boy and I were talking about the new Lorax movie, and I started singing a song about Barbaloots, and he was like “wtf is a Barbaloot.” So we have watched the 1972 TV special version like, 5 times in the past two days.

Thank you, Youtube, for allowing me to relive my childhood any time of day or night.

21 Feb 2012

The State of the Semester

The first quarter of the semester is now over.

Wait, correction. The first quarter OF MY LAST SEMESTER OF GRAD SCHOOL is now over.

I am busier than belief. I mean, I thought last semester took the cake, but this semester, every week goes a little like this:

Sunday – Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday “OH MY GOD IT’S ALREADY THURSDAY? WHERE DID MONDAY-WEDNESDAY GO? – Friday “OH CRAP IT’S THE WEEKEND!” – Saturday “Why am I so tired?”

But despite all that nonsense, I am actually feeling really good about what’s going on in my life.

I do recognize that this could be my Last-Semester-of-School Nostalgia kicking in. There’s a likely chance that in May, I will lose EVERY daily activity that I have, including jobs I have had for years. Jobs that I have whined about for years, but suddenly am feeling quite affectionate toward.


Library Class #1: Information Sources for Children

In this class, we talk about nonfiction books for kids. We sit in a circle. We bring books to class and share them. We learn about access feature, discuss whether or not Arlene Sardine is fiction or non-fiction, make Helen Keller jokes (maybe that’s just me…) One of my favorite Boston friends is in class with me. My professor makes us laugh. It’s just a fairly jolly time.

Please consult me after I get my first paper back and see if I’m still feeling so giddy. But hell, it’s my last semester. Do I really care? No. No I do not.

Library Class #2: Young Adult Literature

YA Lit for the librarians. This is my first online class, and I have to say, I am digging it. It was a rough adjustment, though. The reading list? Full of books I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The assignments? Let’s just talk about what hypothetical teens might hypothetically want to read and why they might hypothetically want to read them.

However, I like the online class format. There’s always something to do – listen to my class podcast on my way to work, make a post on our class wiki or read everyone else’s posts, chat with classmates on Twitter, make a board for new YA books on Pinterest. I And I love love LOVE my professor. She is a rock star. I am in awe. I am excited for our second group chat on Thursday!

My Internship

Is actually hard work. Opening boxes. Shelving books. Entering an interminable amount of ISBN numbers into a database.

However, this joint is such a small operation, I feel like I am actually ESSENTIAL to keeping things running. That’s nice. I am fairly involved in a lot of projects, I feel like I am getting to know a large portion of the staff… basically, I don’t feel like I am just standing around the edges watching everyone, I am in the thick of it.

And then, when I’ve had a few weeks of just straight drudgery, I come into the office and someone says “Hey, Jessica, here’s a table full of brand new books. We really want you to read some of them and give us your opinions. Just grab one and go lounge on the futon all day and go at it. Oh, and Betty Carter sent chocolates – make sure you eat some of Betty Carter’s chocolates!”

For that afternoon, it seems as if all of my dreams have come true.

Job #3

We are going in reverse chronological order here. At Job #3, I do one-on-one writing tutoring. I just started last semester, and I was all nerves and self-doubt. I’m still fairly full of self-doubt, but I feel like I’m coming into my own as a writing tutor. Sure, I may be the world’s WORST writing tutor – I have little concept of what kind of pedagogy excelling at this job really requires – but I feel more comfortable this semester, and I think I do a better job. I think I’m kind of a “Jokey Advice Giving” kind of tutor. I like to sit back and chat about the topic at hand, the process, the next steps.

It’s fun! I like being surprised by every student and every paper. It kind of makes me feel bad that I get paid.

Job #2

Job #2 is where I sit at the Reference Desk. This job is predictable in all the ways that library jobs are predictable – the teachers assign the same assignments, the stairwell is always hard to find, the articles will always be difficult to find. But lately, I’ve really felt like more of the Reference team than a grad student subordinate. Our staff is stepping up their game to some cool new services and such, and I feel like my feedback is valued. I am also working one-on-one with a librarian to do some little research projects, which is fun and I can do them while listening to Broadway musicals and drinking strong coffee. Word.

Job #1

Oh, Job #1. Job #1. I have been at Job #1 since I arrived in Boston, and I have taken on more and more responsibility, completed thousands of projects, met millions of staff people, talked with bazillions of students. I’ve had a different schedule every semester, two different bosses, and not a single raise.

But I like it. I do. I like my autonomy, my shiny new computer, my workload, my boss, my students (my students!).

Maybe I even love it. Maybe.

If I got a raise, I would probably love it.

Work/Life Balance


Sunday – Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday “OH MY GOD IT’S ALREADY THURSDAY? WHERE DID MONDAY-WEDNESDAY GO? – Friday “OH CRAP IT’S THE WEEKEND!” – Saturday “Why am I so tired?

This could certainly be improved upon, but it’s just a semester. A semester that is a quarter over. I’m hoping to squeeze in some more Boston-y things, since I’m not sure if I will be here much longer than the next 6 months, and some more time with friends, since I’m not sure we will be together much longer than the next 6 months.

But a lot of the time, I catch myself thinking

Hey. Great school/jobs/friends/life. You got it good.”