Category Archives: Life After College (general)

Prosetentially Famous

I’m pleased to announce the birth of the creative lovechild of several bloggers, myself included. Teacher Girl and I, in our busy lives,  somehow managed to carry this idea from inception all the way to fruition (quite an accomplishment in the lives of 20-somethings). We lassoed in a couple more awesome bloggers, and Prosetentially Famous was born! PF is a creative writing blog where you can read our poetry, flash fiction, memoir-style prose, among other forms of creative writing. As bloggers/writers, we are all super excited to get this off the ground, so if you are interested please check it out! You can comment, read, or add our feed (I rhymed)! Even if creative writing is not usually your thing, you’re bound to find a piece that you like!

We are also willing to consider additional bloggers who are interested in joining the PF crew (the more the merrier). If you enjoy creative writing and want to get your work out there on Prosetentially Famous, let myself or Teacher Girl know! Now go ahead and visit…

PROSETENTIALLY FAMOUS

You know you want to.

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KONY 2012

For those of you who have not yet heard of Joseph Kony or the “KONY 2012” campaign, you will. Even if you turn away from this blog right now, by the end of 2012 you’ll know.

About eight years ago, a documentary called “Invisible Children” opened my eyes to the atrocities occurring in Africa (specifically Uganda and its neighboring countries). I won’t delve into details about that documentary, but I will say that since that film, a non-profit foundation under the same name has formed. Not everyone agrees with the mission of this organization, how they allocate their funds, or whether we have any business in African affairs at all. Some people feel that their latest campaign, which you’ll learn about in a minute, is an effort to militarize an already-unstable country. To some extent, this is not totally inaccurate. However, to that I respond that the conditions over there warrant whatever is necessary to equip the Ugandans well enough to solve their own problem: Joseph Kony. Who is Joseph Kony? You’re about to find out.


How I Stay Productive (while failing to blog)

About a month ago, in light of the recent rise of the popular GTD (Getting Things Done) movement, I carried out a massive overhaul of how I “get things done.” I’ve been pretty intrigued by the idea of becoming a more productive person ever since I knew I wanted to be in graduate school. I had, over time, become fully-aware that the habits that allowed me to coast as an undergraduate would just cause me to sink in grad school (e.g. cramming, partying, slacking, and the list goes on). I also didn’t want to wait until Day 1 of my program to decide to make changes to my work/play ethics (the balance is important)! I subscribed to and began reading productivity blogs like Zen Habits and LifeHack.org and learned of lots of ways to save time, money, and attention (not only in my work, but other ways as well). The following are a few techniques I’ve used or still do use to spare myself a life of procrastination and poor effort.

Pomodoro Technique – This time-management strategy involves working (really working) in 25-minute increments (called “pomodoros”), with 5-minute breaks after each pomodoro. After 4 pomodoros, you take a longer break (~20 minutes). I’ve found that this has really worked best with projects that I know will take several hours (a long paper, for example). Instead of writing a bit, pacing around, and writing a bit more, this technique adds structure to work. With a schedule like this, I’m more committed to do some hardcore work during those 25 minutes, using each 5-minute break as a motivator. There are several free web apps that are designed to time the various phases of the Pomodoro Technique, my favorite is Tomatoi.st.

To-Do List – I always keep 2 To-Do lists (hey, I never said I was a minimalist). I make the 1st list at the end of every day. Before I head to bed, I write down (on a Post-It note) the three most important things that need to be completed the following day. I carry it with me, and until these three things are done, I don’t even look at my 2nd list. The second list contains tasks that are less urgent or need to be completed over a period of time, and it’s constantly changing . Because it’s always being added to or crossed off, I find that online task managers work best for this type of list (GTasks, Remember the Milk, etc). I make the two lists because it highlights my priorities a bit better; rather than picking out three important things among a list of 15 tasks, the three important ones are the only ones I see until they’re complete. When working on multiple big projects, I find that it helps to use a more versatile task list, like Nirvana.

Long-term Goal Tracking -Every now and then I read or hear of something, and I think “I’d really like to do that one day.” A week later, the thought is lost in the abyss that is my memory (no, seriously, my memory is awful). Luckily, goal-tracking tools like 43things.com allow you to record these goals as you think of them, and you can look back on them to remind yourself of the trip to New Zealand you’re working so hard for, or the skydiving outing. Though I’ve used 43things, I find that because there’s no pressure to complete the goals, I do less to move towards them. For 2011, I made the switch to 101in365.com, which forces you to list 101 goals (however small or large) and gives you 365 days to complete them. Some examples from my list include memorizing a poem, paying off one of my student loans, and changing my own oil (you can see the rest of my list here). The time constraint makes me more excited about pursuing and completing these goals. Number 101 on my list? “Make another 101in365 list.”

Saving Money – While these do not quite help me pay off my loans, every little bit helps.

  • Pay for gas in cash. Gas stations, unless explicitly stating otherwise, often tack several cents onto the price of gas for credit card charges. Around me, the average is +10 cents, but I’ve seen as high as +12-15 cents. So when you complain about gas being $4.20 a gallon as you swipe your credit card, you could actually be paying between $4.30 and $4.35 per gallon. That certainly adds up over time! And don’t be fooled by rewards points, those 50 or so rewards points per tank amount to literally just $0.50 in most rewards programs (even 1% cashback doesn’t balance out the extra that you pay).
  • Use coupons. But only for things you needed anyway. I’ve saved a load of money using coupons properly (for example stacking manufacturer and store coupons). Research some serious coupon strategies (it may be worth it for you). If you’d rather watch couponing in action, turn the TV to TLC, they made a show out of it (“Extreme Couponing”).
  • Downgrade to a cheaper cable package. Nowadays, an internet-enabled computer can get virtually any TV show or movie, and with the right hook-up it can be connected directly to your TV. You’ll have all you need to see your shows, and you’ll never miss the channels you never watched anyway. Additionally, if it results in less TV-watching, well, I don’t need to explain how that’ll help your productivity and save you money.
How do you stay productive?

Charitable Quandary

© JayasArt.com

Five minutes ago I was driving in my car with a disheveled middle-aged woman who asked me for a ride. I initially hesitated when she asked because I knew three things: she would eventually ask for money, she didn’t look healthy, and it was only a losing proposition for me.

I said yes. Not because one of my 101in365.com goals for the year was to “Help a Stranger” (which has only just occurred to me in this moment), but because I feel sometimes that these opportunities are tests of character. She got in my car after putting out her cigarette and placing the surviving half of it in her pocket for later. She told me her car had run out of fuel at her ex-boyfriend’s apartment and she needed a ride back to it. She was unemployed and didn’t always have a place to stay, but was “trying to find something off-the-books.” Eventually, the lady requested “a few dollars,” which shortly thereafter became “eight or nine dollars for gas.” This felt like more than a few dollars to me (despite a $4/gallon price tag at the moment). I offered her $5 to get her started, which I was skeptical would go towards gas anyway.

She continued to tell me her story the entire ride, which probably lasted about 7-8 minutes. I noticed some minor inconsistencies, but didn’t question them because of a slight but nagging concern about what her dirt-colored trenchcoat might conceal. I dropped her off where she requested, gave her a five-dollar bill outside of the car (wasn’t about to take my wallet out with her sitting next to me), and went on my way.

On the return trip, I couldn’t help but think about where that $5 will be going. I also thought about where that $5 would go if it stayed in my pocket. I hesitate to pass judgement on others, and it was for this reason that I took her on as a passenger in the first place. Whether that $5 would buy me an extra beer next weekend, or her a new pack of cigarettes (or worse), it is trivial in the grand scheme of my own life, but perhaps it’s not so trivial in hers. I don’t know where that $5 will go, and I by no means intend to support any counterproductive spending of it, but what I do know is that it probably means a lot more to her than it means to me. It’s for that reason that I feel I made the right decision. Some might consider my choice to be naïve, but I’d like to believe differently.

Have you ever helped a stranger? If you had the chance, would you?


Graduate School: Blessing or Curse?

Pros and ConsI finally finished all of my graduate school interviews two weeks ago, and I’ve since received responses from all of my programs. I am extremely fortunate to have been accepted to eight doctoral programs (I’m not sure how I managed it). Oddly, the more acceptances I received, the more anxiety I’ve had about making a decision. I’ve  caught myself wishing I’d been accepted into just one program (which I realize is an absurd and ungrateful wish). It has been an extremely drawn out and stressful process to get into these programs, and yet its completion lacks any sense of relief.

Ultimately I’ve narrowed my choices to three programs, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Here they are:

University A
Degree: 5-year Psy.D in School Psychology
Where: 3 hours away
Funding: Full tuition remission + $7000 stipend.


University B
Degree: 5-year Psy.D in School Psychology
Where: Home
Funding: Potential for full tuition remission (highly likely but not guaranteed); may not find out before I have to make decision.

University C
Degree: 5-6 year Ph.D in Educational Psychology
Where: Home
Funding: First year free, work-study and adjunct opportunities in later years.

It seems like an obvious choice if I’m just considering finances: University A. However, the stipend would cover living expenses and not much else. At home I have no living expenses, and I really believe I’d be happier at home. University A was my undergraduate school, and I feel strongly that four years there was enough; it’s not a place I want to settle down or begin to live my adult life. Still, it has the only guaranteed funding.

For University B, fellowships with full tuition remission will be awarded within the next two weeks. After that, I’d have to accept the offer in order to find an assistantship (which I’ve been told are abundant at this school) to cover most or all of my tuition. Though it’s likely I’d find an assistantship, it’s a $30,000 gamble, but it’s the school I’d like to be at most.

For University C, a public university, I would have the first year covered and no guaranteed funding after that, but a bunch of work opportunities. The tuition is also dirt cheap because it’s a public school (5 years of tuition at University C equals ONE year at University B). It’s also a different degree type (Ph.D vs. Psy.D) which may help me to find jobs in academia, but my desired career path really involves working for school districts, not teaching at universities.

Based on this extremely limited (but vital) information, what might you do? Would you be concerned more about the financial aspect of graduate school, or where you would be happier? A degree with a wider range of job opportunities, or one that trains you strictly for the job of your dreams? For those of you in grad school or with graduate degrees, did you face a similar choice?


Decorating my Room!

I’ve been home from school 2 months now (to the day!), and it has served as a great reminder that the main wall of my room has been bare since we moved here last June. I had a lot of thoughts about what I wanted to do with the wall space. Paintings? One of my art projects (one of which is already hanging in my room)? Photographs? So many possibilities! I wanted to check out what kinds of discounted prints were available in stores, so I spent Saturday afternoon touring Marshall’s, Home Goods, and Pier 1 Imports. I’m not big on shopping, so I wasn’t keen on spending too much time in these stores, but I found it surprisingly exciting to sift through all of the wall decor for sale.

I found nothing in Marshall’s and moved quickly on to Pier 1 Imports. It was here that I immediately noticed a giant spoon and fork, each about 4 feet tall. I didn’t buy them (at $70/piece), but I spent a moment pondering the hilarity of them. After humoring myself, I must have gone through every print in the store before a frame with 9 wire boxes on the interior caught my eye. Clothespins are attached to each box in the frame, and 5×5 photos hang from some of them. While plain right now (besides the photos that came with the frame), I figure there is a lot of potential for me to turn this into a project. ($28)

After this purchase, I headed to Home Goods, where I thought I peeked at every wall piece they had. After a half hour, I almost walked out before noticing this modern-looking bamboo piece. I must have walked right by it, because though I didn’t initially love it, it grew on me after just a few minutes. There would be space for it, it was a long rectangle (which I was looking for), and it looked pretty cool. The frame is black, and there are skinny pieces of bamboo (painted silver) pinned into 3 separate arrangements ($30):

Lastly, I was inspired to open up some floorspace in my room (as I don’t have much of it). So I toyed with the idea of buying a wall mount for my guitar so I can hang it instead of letting it sit on its floor stand. I figured it would kill two birds with one stone: I would have more floor available, and it would cover some wall space as well. I ran to my last stop, Guitar Center, and was in and out in five minutes with a wall mount. ($15). I came home, messed around with some different arrangements, and settled on this:

Wall

I may not be the best home decorator, but I’m pretty satisfied with the result! I think the guitar looks pretty awesome hanging on the wall (and it’s actually way more convenient to take down and play now). I also love that in both frames you can see through them to the wall, taking up space without making it seem crowded. Perhaps now I’ll feel more inspired when I do my writing, or when I play music; time will tell! It may have cost around $75, but it was something I’ve been meaning to get done for a while now. There’s just one more wall to work on, but it is mostly out of sight unless you are in the room, so I’m less concerned about getting around to that. Oh, the glory of a productive Saturday afternoon!

Where have you decorated recently? Where do you shop for your decor?


MacBook vs. PC

Two weeks ago I made the switch. My new MacBook Pro (5 lbs of “reliable” technology) has been great so far. I would love to know how much time in life I’m saving no longer waiting an eternity for programs to open up on my 4-year-old HP Pavilion. Though the HP still functions (barely), it was time for a change. It was, however, a big decision on many levels to invest in a MacBook Pro. First, the price is extraordinarily higher than your average laptop computer. Starting from $1,199, they run almost double the price of a run-of-the-mill PC laptop. As I’m currently unemployed, this spending presented a bit of a dilemma. However, I needed a change from PC. After years of watching them fail on others, and observing mine become dangerously slow, I was pretty intent on hopping on the Apple bandwagon to see what the hype is all about.

**I’d like to make a side-note on the Apple store. I have yet to find a flaw in the business model (aside from the inflated prices). The employees, in my experience, are all extremely pleasant and very helpful. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t work on commission (I did a little undercover work), and I think this says a lot about the type of character that Apple looks for in their employees. And a store specifically for your brand of computer? I’m not sure why Dell and HP haven’t done the same.**

Now before this sounds like a commercial (because it already does), let’s get to the logistics. The purchase came out, after taxes and the student discount, to around $1,300. Ouch. Though I felt it was a necessary purchase, there are times when I think I could have waited (at least until graduate school in the fall). Either way, I’d be paying the same price, and it’s not as if I can’t afford this; I paid the bill off in full and I’m not down to my last penny. I just hope a job comes my way soon, or I might be wishing I waited.

For those of you who are curious, a MacBook is truly a unique experience. It’s way different than the PCs many of us grew up with. Though there was a bit of a learning curve, with a few hotkeys and an open mind, I’ve already embraced my new laptop. Though compatibility issues were a concern years ago, every program I have needed thus far has a Mac version. Mac compatibility is far more pervasive than many believe. I’m also pleased because I have a machine that can better cater to my media design needs. Damn, this is so a commercial. I’ve been watching too much Mad Men. I really think this is how most Mac owners feel though, and it seems to be a feeling that many PC owners lack (me just a few weeks ago). So either Apple puts out a great product, or I’ve become a sucker like all the rest of the Apple-heads. You decide.

Mac or PC?