My friend from high school is currently living and working in Germany, and we've been exchanging messages occasionally to keep abreast of what each of us is up to. This morning I woke up to a new message from her, and I enjoyed it so much that I asked her for permission to share it, with minor omissions and whatnot. It makes me so glad when people trust me with their thoughts and tell me things like these. It's a lengthy offering of honesty and reflections on applying to grad school, selling yourself, teaching, progressing at a job you might not have felt cut-out for, and discovering what you like and want to do most. Very timely and relevant for other 20-somethings like us who might be struggling in this wonky phase of post-graduation or preparing for post-graduation. For your reading pleasure:
[her original message]
Hi Danielle, see? It took me more than 3 weeks to respond. How are you? It's been a busy month for me. Although we had winter break until the 11th, I still felt really busy. I've been working on my grad school apps this whole month. U of [Whatnot] wanted a 4-6 page Statement of Purpose AND a 1-2 page Personal Statement!! Too much!!! I am a really slow (and reluctant) writer so it always takes so long. For some reason, I don't have any sort of writing process and I always feel lost when I write. Somehow I can't get my thoughts together because I have so many. And especially because this was an application essay, I felt really under pressure because it determines the next two years of my life. It's just so hard to sell yourself honestly, you know? How do I know what I would contribute? How do I know my strengths and weaknesses? They are asking us to know ourselves and communicate a coherent image of ourself to the admissions committee, but in all honesty, people aren't all that coherent. They are complex and inconsistent. Trying to project a coherent self just feels like a lie and I can't write if I feel like I'm bullshitting. So anyway, it was super hard. I had to ask a friend to help me brainstorm and focus on specific aspects of myself before I could really get the app done. But it got done eventually. Now I'm working on my U of [Whatnot] one and it's smoother sailing because it's not as long and I feel like I've already organized my thoughts when writing my U of [Whatnot] one. What's challenging about this essay is trying to use the Canadian spellings of things. But it's not that big of a deal.
Teaching is alright. Definitely different from what I expected. Have you taught anyone before? Stood in front of a classroom and sweated? I thought that with my years of tutoring experience, I'd be well-prepared, but teaching is a different game altogether. It's psychological. It's figuring out how to motivate people to want to learn. It's learning group dynamics, which people work well together, who distracts whom, considering their age and maturity level (The 9th graders are in the gender-split phase where the boys refuse to interact with the girls and everyone is apathetic because it's cool. Little do they know that the world is not driven by apathy, but by passion). It's recognizing that different classes have different personalities and you have to be ready to adapt, be flexible, get the quiet classes to participate and the loud ones to calm down. It's learning that your plan never goes as expected. As a student, you never realize how much planning a teacher does. They structure the way the class runs. I'm always surprised by how much authority I have too. Whatever I plan for the class is what we do. It's a weird, new experience, but I'm happy I get to do this for 10 months. It's not exactly my cup of tea, but I'm learning a lot, and it's helping me strengthen my weaknesses. I hate public speaking, dealing with discipline problems, raising my voice to be heard, but I'm being forced to. And I know all of it will get easier as I go along.
I think the best part of this whole experience is the freetime. I was really lost my senior year. I was having panic attacks the summer before my last year, which I had never had before, because thinking about the future and not having something concrete was really scary to think of. It's like you've been walking around this whole time and suddenly you come to a cliff and you look down and panic because you don't know what's down there. I really felt useless, having studied German. Like, German is a good to know if and only if you have a main skill too, which I don't. So I panicked all the way through applying to the [Whatnot] and the Austrian version of the [Whatnot]. And then I breathed a bit when I got the grant because now the cliff was a bit further away. And now I'm here and the freetime has allowed me to really think of the stuff I want to do. You spend like 16 years straight through being educated that you barely have time to think about your own passions and your long-term goals because you have so many short-term goals in front of you (finishing that paper, studying for that exam, doing required readings). Once you have free time, you fill that time with what you want to do and it helps you see yourself so much clearerly. Having time to just think and reflect was really valuable because I realized that I really like building things, designing stuff, figuring out how things work, programming. But most importantly I really like to help people. And maybe one day I could help more people if I had more money. Tip better, donate to Wikipedia, stuff like that. And I can't do that stuff with just a degree in German. I want to learn to make programs /websites/applicaitons that help others (it also pays well). It became totally logical that I should apply for a Master's so I did. And I hope I get in so I can continue to work on my goals.
What have you been up to now without the bookshop? I too worked in retail before and I know I can do better than be walked on by people with money all day errday. So can you. What have you been doing with your freetime? Volunteering? Finding another job? I wouldn't be too hard on yourself either because like I said, freetime also has its value ;) I hope you are doing well despite the insecurity, and I have absolute trust that you will figure it out eventually :) Take care!
[in response to my response to her original message]Sorry I wrote so much haha! honest writing is the only writing I like doing
Aww, I'm glad you liked my message - of course you can reproduce it if you want haha! I'm applying to the School of [Whatnot] because they take people from basically any major since [whatnot] is an interdisciplinary field. I am an interdisciplinary at heart, so it should be a good fit. Plus I will learn how to program and design applications. And then I will finally have a main skill to pair with my German. I'm applying as a citizen and hoping the spellings don't matter because I have been integrated too long in American society d: I really enjoyed reading your message too! And never worry about "making things about" you. That's what friendship's about! (among other things). I'll send you another message next month, but until then, keep doing you in all your writing, cooking, reading, twerking glory ;)