Saturday, June 30, 2012

Master's Thesis

The minimum page requirement for my Master's thesis is 160 pages. Most of the other students in my class are writing short stories, so once they write enough stories to fill approximately 160 pages, they'll be finished.

I decided to try writing a novel. The problem with a novel is that it's possible for it to turn out much longer. If you write 160 pages and are just beginning, young Tolstoy, you still have to finish the story in order to turn in your thesis. Right now, I have 66 pages written, and I know I'm not halfway through. I'm not even one-third of the way through. It is maybe 1/5 or 1/6 finished.

If 66 pages is only 1/5 of the way through, the total number of pages would be 330. If it's 1/6 of the way finished, then the end count will be 396 pages. Just by choosing a novel (though my writing style is also to blame), I've created twice as much work for myself than if I had decided to write short stories.

The average of 330 and 396 is 363 pages. My goal this summer is to write the first 200 pages of this novel and see where that gets me. With 14 weeks left until school starts, that means that I need to turn out an average of about 14 new pages per week.

Hard enough, right? The complication is that I just arrived in Florence today, scrambled and jet-lagged and ready for a month of studying and sightseeing.

Wish me luck. Or dare me. Either one will help.

Packing Tip

Not that I’ve traveled extensively or anything – because I haven’t – but here’s a packing tip that you may already know about: stack books on your clothes and let them compress your luggage overnight.  I  did this on accident – packed my clothes and then set the books I was bringing on top of the bag, planned on putting them in a backpack later. The next morning, I found that my clothes were way more compressed than they were – I fit a few more items in and there is still a decent amount of room left at the top, so I zipped it up with ease. I think it weighs about 40-45 pounds.

"Italy, Tuscany, Young woman pushing stuffed suitcase in hotel room," Publisher: Westend61-RF-2, on

Monday, June 25, 2012

So ends my stint in real estate.

Last week, I gave my boss my resignation letter. I haven't left a real job before (because I haven't had a real job before). I did resign from Big 5 Sporting Goods when I was twenty, but that was a big store with lots of employees, and I only worked there a few hours a week. They weren't going to notice that I left. This office, however, has only four employees and is about the size of half of my house. I worked there full time for one year, and part time for seven months. I often hold down the office by myself. I can match up most of our 203 properties with their 203 tenants, and some of their almost-203 owners. I have begun to develop a soft-sell sale style that has been pretty effective.

The night before I resigned, I found myself Googling how to write a resignation letter. I followed the sample I found on, which suggested that one should thank the company and keep the letter brief. I was happy to be moving on to other things, until my boss brought in the new receptionist to work on my day off. The next time I came in, I discovered that this other person had been at my desk, taking my phone calls and leaving notes on our business projects in handwriting that was a strange cross between my boss's cursive and my coworker's caps. I've been replaced, and, suddenly, I felt territorial -- like baby bear coming home just in time to find Goldilocks.

Someone has been calling my tenants!
Someone has been advertising for my properties!
Someone has been working my hours, and she's eating them all up!

I'm sure that when the time comes, I'll be more than happy to sit in a bigger chair and sleep in a longer bed. But until my last day, I don't want anyone else picking at my bowl of oatmeal and craisins.

Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl," 1988.

Ellsworth, Mary. The Colorful Story Book. 1941. Web 24 June, 2012.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Leaving Home

My family left home this weekend for a two-week vacation in Yellowstone National Park. I left today, too, in a sense. My family always packs home into the car with everything else: it's stuffed under the seats with the sleeping bags and binoculars, crammed in between the metal plates and gas stove.

Even when I leave the house this week, I'm not leaving California yet--I'm staying the night at an aunt's house and flying out of LAX the next day. It makes it easier to leave if one does it in pieces--first the real home, then the physical house, then the region. Lucky for me, my family and home will be unpacked and settled into the house again by the time I return. . .

. . . so happy that Italy has palm trees, too!

"Close-up Of Palm Trees Near Buildings, Rome," by Keith Levit Photography. <>.

Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 looks like it’s turning out to be a pretty big year. I completed my year-long internship with Inland Empire Magazine, I’m quitting the secretarial job I’ve held for over a year, I’m studying in Italy for a month, seeing the London Olympics, and – at the end of this adventure – I return to a new job, a new year of grad school with new profs and classmates, and a new internship with Cliché Magazine.

That’s a big improvement on 2011. Not that nothing happened – it was last year that I landed my first grown-up, (nearly) full-time nine-to-five job, and then grad school started in September. On a daily basis, I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything, and I was not earning much money, either. Sometimes 2012 feels the same way, actually, even though this year has a lot more going on. Whenever it happens again, I’m going to remember everything I'm doing that I have to be thankful for.

And then, I’m going to go back to concentrating on how to make that year even better than the last one.  

Photo citation:
les Phillips cover of Life Magazine, 1927

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Recession? Yes. Hope anyways? Double Yes.

The roaring twenties are remembered as a time when people ate, drank, and were merry. If you compare the twenties to the two-thousands, they would be magenta and we would be a dull brown. They would be "It Happened One Night," (okay, a few years later), and we would be "Made of Honor." 

We are in a recession, and if you believe what you read in newspapers, most young adults are struggling to pay for their ever-increasing tuition, fighting to get into general ed classes, and desperately searching for jobs that aren’t there. When they do finally land a job, they will most likely be underemployed, because only half of employed graduates find positions that even require a bachelor’s degree (Rampell 2011).

The result of all this is that this generation will make significantly less money in its lifetime, because, according to the NYT, students who graduate “during a poor economy [experience] a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force” (Buchholz 2012). That graduates will accept lower-salary jobs also means that uneducated workers who might normally hold such positions are having to look elsewhere, making their unemployment rates even worse than those of the just-graduated (Rampell 2011).

This is what the papers say -- and, unfortunately, they are correct.

So, what are we going to do about it?

We’re not going to give up. We’re going to beat the odds. I think there can sometimes be an unconscious tendency to -- as Lady Bracknell says – see such dire facts as a prediction, a destiny, to see them as “statistics [that have been] laid down for our guidance” (Wilde). But if we’re going to best his recession, the key to accomplish that, according to economist Till von Wachter, is almost to act as if there isn’t one. “[W]hile young people who have weathered a tough job market may shy from risks during their careers,” von Wachter says, “[T]he best way to nullify an unlucky graduation date is to change jobs when you can” (Rampell 2011).

So let’s band together and make the most of it. Despite the circumstances, the disappointments and hardships, we still need to work to achieve our goals. There will be times when we feel angry, cheated, disillusioned – and there’s a time for that – but I hope that mostly we will try to interpret this situation as a challenge, as a test of our hope.

I am dedicating this blog to that hope, to that struggle. I am dedicating this blog to the celebration of goals, of continued learning, and to the search for challenging, fulfilling work. This blog will try to support young people who want to use wisely every minute of their twenties: to strive, to grow, to take chances, to change the world, and to enjoy life.

Let’s celebrate this uncertain and exciting time in our lives.

This is for those who will still roar through their twenties.

Works Cited

Buchholz, Todd and Victoria. “The Go-Nowhere Generation.” The New York Times. March 10, 2012. Web June 15, 2012.

Class of 2012.” Editorial. The New York Times. June 4, 2012. Web June 15, 2012.

Rampell, Catherine. “As New Graduates Return to Nest, Economy Also Feels the Pain.” The New York Times. Nov. 16, 2011. Web June 15, 2012.

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. 1895.

Image: cover of Life Magazine, Feb. 18, 1926.