Congratulations to the class of 2010! For most of you, the beginning of June will bring the freedom you’ve been waiting for since fall 2006: your high school or college days are behind you and it’s time to join the fabulous “real world” – almost. Graduating seniors have no doubt been told by now that it’s not quite all smooth sailing from here and yes, unfortunately, that is the case. However, there are lots of people who have been through it all before and who are more than willing to offer their insights and advice for the upcoming challenges.
One of these people is J. R. Parrish, author of “You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way: Making it in the Real World.” In his book, which he calls a “guide for graduates,” Parrish tackles many of the issues that arise after graduation. By combining stories from personal experience with general advice that could be applied to any life, Parrish offers a valuable resource for any graduate hoping to survive in the real world without, as he says, learning the hard way.
One of the first topics Parrish discusses in his book is how to achieve success or, as he puts it, how to “make your dreams come true.” Parrish relates a story about one of his first jobs and the struggle he went through to attain it. Because he did not graduate from college, Parrish was at first turned down for a job he wanted at Xerox. After that position was denied him, he went to Xerox’s main competitor, where he was given a job and enjoyed not a small amount of success. After some time at that job, Xerox got back in touch with him and offered him the job he had wanted originally, which he gladly took.
There are several lessons to be learned from Parrish’s experience with Xerox. The first is that it is highly unlikely that you will get the first job you inquire about; the second is that it is crucial not to give up. It is all too easy to experience a failure, such as Parrish’s with Xerox, and to decide that it would be pointless to keep trying. However, Parrish is right when he insists that you not give up so easily! Whether you choose to seek another route to your desired job, the way Parrish did, or to try a completely different job opportunity, the most important thing to remember is not to give up. As a graduate, you’ve put in a lot of hard work to this point and you deserve to land in a job that’s right for you.
Another main point in “You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way” is Parrish’s belief that marriage (or a serious dating relationship) is something best avoided at this stage of your life. Parrish shares his own experience in getting married early on: though his parents and other respected figures advised against it, he was sure at the age of nineteen that he was ready, and ignored their advice. His marriage lasted for seven years, during which time he and his wife grew increasingly distant from each other due to Parrish’s personal goals and ambition. At the end of those seven years, Parrish decided that his individual journey needed and deserved more time and attention than did his marriage.
Parrish’s includes a list of suggestions with his personal advice, to include “have at least a year-long engagement” and “take plenty of time before having children.” Though Parrish would certainly have benefited from his own advice, based on the outcome of his own experience with marriage, his counsel should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. Some people are truly ready to get married at a young age and take great joy in facing this difficult stage of life with a spouse as a partner. It is important to keep in mind that what works for Parrish may not work for you, and what he counts as personal failures may be the brightest spots in your own life.
One piece of extremely valuable advice in this book is to “solicit, listen to, and weigh your parents’ advice carefully because they have your best interests at heart and can help you avoid costly mistakes.” For Parrish, that mistake was marriage; for you, it might be the wrong graduate program, the wrong career path, etc. Though it might feel great to finally be an adult and not have to listen to your parents anymore, it is important to realize that they have been a huge part of your life for the last however many years, and therefore are likely to be able to offer insights that you might not see for yourself.
J. R. Parrish’s “You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way” is ultimately a practical, concise guide for recent graduates who seek some advice on how to best reach the next stage of life. Find it in your local bookstore, and consider it as a gift for yourself or for a graduating loved one!
Those of us in our twenties don’t always fully understand money mishaps before jumping head first into the “real world,” so it’s a good idea to figure out how to manage our money now. One of the smartest things you can do is to start saving for retirement as early as you can afford to do so (enter: disgruntled sighs). Retirement sounds a long way away, and this may seem difficult since many of us are already on tight budgets. However, the more time your money has to grow, the more money you’ll have when you’re older. This is because of the power of compound interest, or the interest that is added to your principal, so you earn interest on the interest in addition to your contribution. Not too shabby, but if you need a bit more motivation to start saving for your future now, many companies even match your retirement contribution.
Another area to look into is an investment that many people overlook: health insurance. Even though it isn’t a tangible purchase, it will prevent financial troubles if you end up in the hospital. If you’re not covered by your school or employer, look into purchasing a health plan for yourself. Also consider an emergency savings fund to prepare for unexpected expenses, but don’t confuse this with your retirement savings.
If you’re more focused on the present moment, one thing you can do is build your credit now. Stick with one card, so it’s easier to pay your bills on time and in full. Although those “10 percent off your purchase” offers that retailers incessantly entice you with seem like a great deal, they’re also throwing in high interest rates and fees with the card. If you carry a balance on your credit card and are tempted by zero percent offers if you transfer your balance to a new card, be careful. Credit card transfer offers usually carry fees once the promotion period is over. On a similar note, avoid getting bogged down with debt by only charging items on your credit card that you can pay back immediately. Steer clear of only paying the minimum. This way, you won’t be in debt for a long period of time. It’s also important to only borrow what you need. Just because you may qualify for a large student or auto loan doesn’t mean you should borrow the full amount.
The bottom line is that living modestly will help you save more money for the future. In the words of British politician, James Burgh, “In prosperity prepare for a change; in adversity hope for one.”
By Kaitlin Meilert
Ah, senior year of college…After two more semesters, you will finally be free of all those tests you crammed for, papers you pulled all-nighters to write, boring jobs you had to juggle with packed school schedules, and the constant stress you swore would never be relieved. But you keep your head in the game because it’s not over yet.
Freedom begins to tug at you by the end of fall semester…as does adulthood and the pressure of real life waiting just around the corner. But you put it out of your mind because senioritis is kicking in.
Then, your last semester spins by, and it hits you: You have an English degree…what now?
What are you going to do with your life? Where are you going to work? Should you go to grad school like all of the other English majors seem to do after graduating, even if it purely means buying more time before entering the real world? Are you ready to jump straight from one exhaustive life to the next? Why did you ever major in English Writing and Rhetoric?
The worst part is feeling like everyone around you knows exactly what they want to do. But here’s the reality check: You’re not alone. And you want to know what else? It’s ok to feel lost. It’s ok to want to take a short break after graduating to not only figure out what you want to do but to recharge your drained batteries. I was recently reassured of this by someone whose advice I don’t take lightly: my dad.
His advice? Take the time to figure out what you really want to do before jumping into something you’re not sure about or feel too drained to successfully take on…or spending thousands of dollars on getting an MFA in an area you’re not positive you want to pursue. He told me that it’s ok to take a break, relax, and pull myself together.
However, I did reassure my dad that I would use my time off wisely, which brings me to my advice to you. From one soon to be graduating English major to another: Don’t worry if you’re feeling lost. Take that time off to find your way. But in the meantime, make that time useful:
Get an internship.
No, you probably won’t get paid. But it’s a start and an opportunity; a chance to get some experience in the field of writing (not to mention it’s a great way to network and make connections.) Find an internship with a publishing company, a magazine, or a newspaper. Be their slave if you have to (filing, making phone calls, fact checking…you get the idea) and work your way up. If you do well, your boss just might offer you a part or full time position when the internship is up. I know, I know. You’re still thinking about that “unpaid” part…
Get a job.
Hello! You’ve graduated! Imagine how much easier it will be to take on an internship AND a paying job without having to juggle them with school. Trust me, you can do both. Just think about how much time school alone takes up (exhausting just thinking about it, isn’t it?) Work in retail, waitress, bar tend, house sit…I know it doesn’t sound too glamorous, but just think of it this way: it’s only temporary; it pays the bills; it gets you out of the house and interacting with other people. And, at their worst, crappy jobs just might give you some material for that novel you’re working on.
Perhaps your time off isn’t intentional. It may be that you’re having trouble landing a writing-related job or internship. Just keep sending out those resumes and writing samples, and in the meantime, volunteer in your community. Find volunteer work that offers you experience in the writing, editing, publishing world. Or at least find work that lets you put all that grammar and editing knowledge to use, such as volunteering to tutor high school students in English. And if not for any of those reasons, simply volunteer to get out of the house and give back to the community, whether through your writing skills or not. Helping out others also might snap you out of that self-pity you may be feeling.
Learn something new.
Take a peek around your community. You’re bound to find a few writing classes and workshops (yes, professional writers offer workshops for a small fee…take advantage of their knowledge!) Or maybe you want to enhance your computer skills. As you’ll find out, or probably already know, a variety of jobs (even writing-related gigs) prefer, or require, that applicants have certain computer skills. So find a workshop around town that will help you brush up on those skills or teach you how to use advanced software and applications, such as Dreamweaver or Photoshop (both are useful for publishing, by the way…) Other ideas? Cooking, photography, salsa dancing, kickboxing…ok, maybe you can’t put some of those on your writing resume, but at least you’ll be learning and doing something with your time (and yes, gathering more material for all the writing you’re going to have published some day.)
The point here is to do something. Don’t sleep in until noon and laze around all day in your PJs, watching The Tyra Show, moping about how crappy your life is. I’m sorry, you can’t produce any writing out of that (if you could, you’d probably have a bestseller out, and you wouldn’t be reading this.) Listen up! A career isn’t just going to fall into your lap. You have to work toward it. Send out your resume to any and every possibility you can find. And in the meantime do something worthwhile, like writing, English major. Better yet, at least submit your work to editors as a freelance writer.
So, my fellow graduating English majors who are at a loss about what to do after graduation, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Take a year off and figure out what you really want to do with your English degree. But keep learning and embarking on new experiences. And stay positive: all the answers (and the career) will come. And last, but never least, keep writing!
Oh, and one more thing…Congratulations! You’ve just spent four years working hard (and losing sleep) to earn your degree. You deserve a short break. And my graduation gift to you? Reassurance. Ignore all of the people who said, “Oh, you’re an English major? What are you going to do with that?” The writing, the jobs, and the bestsellers will come. But for now, take a break (I know you need it.)
By Valerie Patruno
Whether or not you’re actively seeking a new job, an updated résumé is always great to have on-hand. Your résumé is the first impression a potential employer will have of you, so making sure your résumé puts you in the best light possible is a must.
But how do you sum up your entire career and accomplishments on one sheet of paper and catch the attention of the reader to keep them from tossing it in the “No” pile? Below are some helpful tips to get your résumé in tip-top shape.
- 1. About that one sheet of paper…
A résumé should always be limited to one page. It takes a potential employer about 20 seconds before deciding if the applicant will be a candidate for the position, meaning that a second page will most likely never be read.
- 2. Don’t go crazy on the design or font
Your résumé should be in a simple, easy to read format. Microsoft Word contains many templates to follow; as well as many templates being available for free download on the Internet. Times New Roman is the most common font, although you can play around with some of the other basic font types. Do not go any larger than a 12-point font or any smaller than a 9-point font. Larger fonts indicate that you’re just trying to cover up white space.
- 3. An objective is not entirely necessary
While this may depend on the industry you’re in, having a job objective on your résumé just takes up space that can be used for more interesting information. If you’re applying for a position that you saw posted online, there is no need to state that is the position you’re interested in on your résumé in an objective.
- 4. Everyone knows Microsoft Office
While the “skills” section of a résumé is great for mentioning any special skills you may have, such as knowledge of HTML, it’s not so great for mentioning that you’re proficient in all of the Microsoft Office programs. This is especially important if you’re already working beyond an entry-level position, since it’s a given that you use one or more of these programs on a daily basis. If the skills you are listing are basic and should be common knowledge, take them off the résumé.
- 5. Organize
Your résumé should begin with your most recent experience and conclude with your education. In my opinion, a bullet point list looks the most appealing. List your accomplishments and duties (in that order) for the position, with the most important duties at the top of the list. The “education” section of your résumé should contain your university/college name, your major and the year you graduated. List your GPA only if necessary.
- Keep it relevant
If you have experience from a college waitressing gig, you can leave that off your résumé. But if you worked in a library during college and are applying for a position at a book publishing company, that would be a great way to show your love for books to the prospective hirer. Just make sure what you include in your résumé will add strength to your qualifications.
- Keywords and phrases
Look through the job posting and see what skills and qualifications are required for the position. Make sure that your résumé contains certain words or phrases listed in the posting. Many companies use a filter to pick out the résumés with the qualifications they’re looking for. You don’t want your résumé to be overlooked because the filter did not pick it up, even if you’re more than qualified for the position
Of course, while these tips are good to keep in mind when writing your résumé, they are not rules set in stone. Seek out a professional in your industry to see what the average résumé looks like in that field. And always make sure to keep your résumé updated; you never know when the perfect opportunity will jump out at you!
What, you may ask, is a Go-Getter Girl? Well, a Go-Getter Girl is no single person. She can be your ambitious and terrifyingly organized cubicle mate. She can also be your boss, or the person your boss roots for at all the important meetings. She is typically on the receiving end of everything you dream of at work: fast promotions, pay raises, and high-profile projects. And to top it all off, she is always cheerful and upbeat, and converses well with interns, secretaries, colleagues, and managers alike.
Every office has a Go-Getter Girl, and we all have a good idea of what she looks like. Her heels are immaculately polished, her nails are well manicured, and even first thing in the morning she appears as though she just stepped out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue, designer handbag in tow. As this woman’s colleague or employee, you may feel intimidated, jealous, angry, or any combination of these feelings. Why is this girl so perfect? How did she become this way? Why am I not doing what she is doing?
Thankfully, there is a book devoted entirely to the art of becoming a Go-Getter Girl versus, as author Debra Shigley calls it, a Get-Along Girl. The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide: Get What You Want in Work and Life (and Look Great While You’re At It) is divided into three sections, each covering one component of the Go-Getter Girl and what it will take to get out of your Get-Along Girl slump. While Shigley’s encouraging tone just might get some readers pumped for a life-changing transformation, the book covers no new ground. Most of us know that it is unprofessional to cry at work or to break down in front of bosses and colleagues. Readers may assume, just from using common sense, that coworkers will be more likely to betray you when their own butt is on the line than to help you out. While many of the stories in Shigley’s book are quite inspiring (like those of Spanx founder Sara Blakely and bestselling novelist Emily Griffin), the actual career advice Shigley offers feels more redundant than innovative, even at times bordering on the nonsensical. At one point, for instance, Shigley tells readers that when faced with the dilemma of choosing between a pantsuit and a skirt suit, go for the skirt, as most employers still expect women to wear dresses and the like to work over their “masculine” counterpart. This advice is ridiculous, and what is even more disappointing is that such a mind-boggling tip is briefly glossed over without any supporting statistics, facts, polls, or research.
It figures that in a book written for women there would be an entire middle section devoted to just beauty and fashion tips, which is certainly appropriate given Shigley’s belief that the way you present yourself is half the battle to getting where you want to be in life. But Shigley, by no means a beauty or fashion expert, can’t seem to distinguish for herself what qualifies as inappropriate attire in the office, condemning black stockings as suggestive of prostitution, another baffling conclusion unsupported by hard facts and real evidence. There are other strange, if not unnecessary, sections of the book which describe at length different exercise positions, including a protracted step-by-step guide on how to do a pushup. Shigley would have been much better off providing diagrams or pictorials of these exercise moves rather than undertaking the nearly impossible task of explaining how to do a standing lunge. Her beauty tips and glossary of beauty-related terms are equally ridiculous. At one point, the reader might be tempted to just pause and wonder, “Who in this day and age doesn’t know what dyeing your hair means? Who doesn’t know how to do a pushup?”
Though the beauty and fashion section of the book proved the most exhausting part to get through, the rest of the work was unfortunately no better. More often than not, Shigley seems totally unaware of the insulting nature of her advice. She claims that she is against the use of feminine sexuality to win over what remain largely testosterone-dominated offices, but her tips would suggest otherwise. In the third section of the book, Shigley suggests that suppressing your feminine side does include “using your sweet nature to cajole a better deal,” a phrase that could be worded infinitely better with less emphasis on the “sweet nature” that she assumes all women, simply by being female, must possess. The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide is in more ways than one a step back for career books aimed specifically at a female audience.
While the book does encourage women to negotiate better deals for themselves (in terms of maternity leave, salary, and benefits), the messages Shigley’s book sends are far too mixed and muddled to effectively encourage women to become the movers and shakers of their office. Readers may be left with the same question they began with: “What is a Go-Getter Girl?” The Go-Getter Girl, according to Shigley, is bright, talented, and strategic about her career. Perhaps inadvertently, Shigley also suggests that a Go-Getter Girl is manipulative, fake, and unafraid to use her femininity to get what she wants, making this book more a setback for hard-working women in the office than the tool for career advancement it desperately wants to be.
As a journalist graduating from Brandice University with plans to go to Yale to study law and public policy, Christie Hefner never imagined she would be a businesswoman. But a summer vacation when she was 22 to Los Angeles to visit her father, Hugh Hefner, changed all of her plans. Hefner’s father suggested that she come to visit and work with him for just a year, so that she could learn about his company, Playboy Enterprises.
“It seemed like an offer maybe that I couldn’t refuse,” she said of her father’s suggestion, “and both of us thought this would be short term.” But a few years quickly passed, and Yale became a distant thought. In 1982, when she was only 26, Hefner became the president of Playboy Enterprises. The company had begun to lose a lot of money, and Hefner believed that she could step in as president and really turn things around.
“It got into trouble, and I sort of stood up and said ‘I think I can help,’” Hefner said.
And so a woman with no formal training and limited business experience found herself in charge. Hefner said that she just had to pursue what she thought was right, and she learned as she went. Hefner successfully restructured the company and did what she referred to as to “dumping the losers.”
Hefner stayed president of Playboy Enterprises until 1988, when father Hugh had a stroke. He recovered completely, but decided that he needed to make some changes. Namely, he did not want to be CEO of the company any longer—he wanted his daughter to take over.
As CEO, Christie began by thinking about the future of Playboy. After doing some research on the company’s brand, Hefner found that it had a deep resonance with consumers. This made her see the possibility of a destination television channel. From there, Hefner began to focus on making the company more electronic and interactive.
Playboy employees who were interested in technology were given a little bit of money to play around with the idea of a website, and in 1994, Playboy became the first national magazine to go on the web. From that point on the brand continued to expand, grow and succeed as it moved across media platforms.
In 2008, after serving as CEO of Playboy for four times longer than the average CEO serves a company, and making her the longest serving CEO of any public company, Hefner stepped down. She decided to go back to her original passions: journalism, law and public policy. Hefner is now engaged in a variety of activities, including the Progressive Think Tank and helping Columbia work on its Journalism Review magazine.
Hefner gives students advice on how to be successful based on her own experiences. The most important thing, she says, is to never stop learning.
“I don’t think you should ever stop meeting people. I don’t think you should ever stop wanting to learn,” she teaches. “Be open to transforming yourself, a few times.” She stresses the importance of learning how to learn, and that intellectual agility was one of the most important things she looked for in hiring new employees for Playboy Enterprises.
There are three basic chapters to life, according to Hefner: working, learning and playing. But they should be intertwined.
“I’m not willing to defer the fun until I’m 65,” she says, “but I also always want to be engaged.” According to Hefner, the best course is to always do a little bit of both.
When asked what her personal opinion is of the way women are portrayed in Playboy, Hefner stands up for the liberating quality of the magazine. The magazine was a huge part of the sexual revolution, where women began to feel liberated from the sexually conservative society and more in control of their bodies. According to Hefner, there is something wrong with the fact that women cannot be taken seriously and be sexy at the same time.
“Women should be able to be both respected and desired,” she says in defense of her stance, “and Playboy stands for that.”
Editor’s Note: REALITY Check Girl supports women in leadership positions and believes that learning about different perspectives is an important part of creating a more understanding society.
I grew up in a household with a stay-at-home-mom. While she did the domestic jobs of cooking and cleaning, she devoted herself to helping with homework, problems, and encouraging her children every day in everything that they did; she still does. While all parents have flaws, I never saw my mom’s choice of staying at home to be one of them.
There have been many moments, I’m sure, when my mom questioned her decision. Indeed she still has many goals and dreams to carry out when she chooses to, but once she had her three girls, her life revolved around them.
I do remember at one point, around when I was five, she worked at a library, and she worked with my father when he was a minister in whatever ways she could, but she never did something like being a newspaper editor, becoming a doctor, a lawyer, and so on. While she enjoyed working and doing other things which she loved, she made the girls her priority.
Growing up with encouragement, my parents sought for me and my two sisters to always have a career in mind. If we didn’t wish to do the big things, they still encouraged us to get our teaching credentials so we would have something to “fall back on,” if all doesn’t go as we dream it. However, as I have grown, I have realized that I want to be just like my mother. Though some days she tells me she wishes she had done more, and that she herself would have gotten her teaching credentials, I have come to the point in my life to stick to my own gut feelings.
These days, women are expected to do just as much as men. If they are, indeed, blessed and capable to go to college and to work towards a career, they are expected to have a career. Whether it be a teacher, a news consultant, a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, a police woman, or a secretary—a woman is expected to want that position of self-dependency and power that those before us fought so hard to have.
As I grow up, I have realized more and more my want to stay home. I have high hopes of being a published author and perhaps a free lance writer, but other than that my main goal is to be a good mother. It seems the more years that separate us from the 50s and before, women who stay home are looked down upon. After all, are we not just as capable as men? We have the choice to go to work, to have a career, and to be a mother and a wife. We have the choice to have it all. This I understand… but what if I don’t want it all? What if I am perfectly content to stay at home, cook and clean, help the kids in all that they do, and be a number-one mother and wife? Why is that such a bad thing?
I got married young, but my mind has never changed. When I was younger my hopes were to be an actress, then a teacher, then a writer, then a librarian, then all of the above. Still I work towards those dreams that I have had all of my life, but now most of them are “just in cases.”
I will continue my education and get my masters in library sciences just in case something happens to my husband and I am forced to support myself, and maybe someday my children. I will go back and get my teaching credentials, if necessary, to help support us if we are ever in a hard financial time. But all of these options that I have are just that—options. I have the option to choose what I wish to do. And what is that? I choose to be a mother, to write when I am able, to continue to try to be published, and to be content supporting my family.
Women have a peculiar role in the world these days. While in some places women are still not as free to do as we are in the United States, more time tends to equal more opportunities. While I always give shout outs to my feminist sisters, there are those that I disagree with in many cases. Why are women who stay at home to be mothers looked down on, but women who show off their bodies for work, not? After all, those women are giving in to a stereotype as much as the stay-at-home-mothers; they are using their bodies to get what they want, which is an ancient trick our sex has long possessed.
Children are our future. If all women are to have a career and a family, and sometimes family time is sacrificed—will our children continue to grow up well rounded? It seems that kids today are starting to lose respect, lose the true knowing of family-togetherness, lose companionship with brothers and sisters; children now are always entertained with video games, movies, TV shows—even in the car! If all the women that wish to be stay-at-home-moms give in to society and become career-focused women… what will happen to our children?
I am not saying that women cannot do it all, but I do think there has to be some kind of balance. I think that if women who have a career and a family are looked up to, women who decide to stay at home and focus on the family should be looked up to as well. Both are accomplishing something, both are making a difference.
Why is a woman lawyer making a bigger difference than a mother at home giving her child options of punishments? Why is a woman doctor making a bigger difference than a stay-at-home-mother who bandages her child’s hurts and kisses them to make them feel better? Why are women no longer allowed to want to be the perfect wife and mother?
It seems to me that women today are afraid to make the home and love the big picture. Society is pushing women to have careers, to make a difference. The way I see it, is women can have time for a career and they can have time for family. If a woman wants to make her home her career, there should be no problems with that. That’s how it began, and while the changes and opportunities that have come our way should not be ignored, they do not have to be the only options.
Power to the women who have it all; power to the women that only want a career, and power to the women who want the home to be their career!
We should all support one another, all realize that we have the opportunity to choose and that some choices should not be looked at as better than others.
While I do not think going through life depending on the image of getting married, having kids, and being a mom should be the number one goal of a woman, she should not look down upon it if that’s what ends up happening.
There is no shame in giving in to love and saving other opportunities for later in life, and vice versa. Women should be happy to be who they are and enjoy their choices and making choices for themselves.
We should stop doing only what society expects us to do, and exercise our right of choosing. After all, isn’t that what the men do?
By Katherine J. Chen
The first semester of my freshman year was spent, for the most part, in my dorm. In the evenings, my three roommates could all be found poring over the same bathroom mirror, their faces layered with gloss, powder, and even the occasional glitter. While they slipped on heels and zipped up dresses, I would be sitting at my desk, poring over the stacks of papers, open textbooks, and problem sets stacked neatly in front of me. Every five minutes, I would also feel compelled to check my e-mail, even if I knew that I had no incoming messages to read other than the slew of spam mail waiting to be purged in my Trash folder.
With some assurance, I can say that the entirety of my freshman year was spent half in my dorm and half at home. In both settings I was doing the same thing: working. Whether it was applying for jobs or stressing out about essay deadlines, I was always laboring over some assignment or unfinished task. Even before I entered college, I had already developed a number of disturbing habits. I used to starve myself on purpose until I finished whatever work or tasks I had set out to complete that day. This meant that if there was an English paper, a lab report, and a PowerPoint presentation to work on, I couldn’t eat until I had finished all of my work. There was no exception to this rule, and it was entirely self-inflicted.
As a result of these poor decisions, I began to take meals – usually in the form of cold leftovers tossed in the microwave – at all hours of the day, from midnight to dawn. I began to view food as an award, instead of as a necessity. If I was able to finish all of my homework and other jobs on time, I could sit myself down to a hot meal, even on occasion at the dinner table with my parents. If I broke down from exhaustion before every task was checked off my to-do list for the day, I would collapse on the mattress and go to sleep. Even though I did not realize it at the time, these habits severely affected my health and my weight. It took nearly half a year for me to adjust back to a healthy routine of eating foods earlier in the day and setting up a normal sleeping schedule. It took even longer for me to learn how to put the pencil down and take the initiative of making my own lunch or dinner without my mother asking me every few hours if I was hungry.
At the end of freshman year, my social life was also in ruins. As a workaholic, I was repulsed by the idea of going out with friends or socializing in any respect. I cannot recall a single memory from freshman year which did not involve work. Every trip I took to the city, every effort I made to reconnect with old friends from high school, had been related in some shape or form to the assignments waiting for me back home. An art critique due at the end of the week would prompt me to call up a few close friends of mine on the pretense that I just wanted to hang out. Of course, once we arrived at the museum, I would get right down to business. While my friends took turns posing beside Greek statues to get my attention, I was squinting my eyes, trying to jot down all the information I could on the paintings I needed to see, not the pieces I really wanted to see.
Over the summer, I took the time to significantly adjust my working habits. I resolved to set a limited amount of time each day to working, and at least two to three hours to relaxing. Abiding by a strict schedule actually involved more discipline than working twelve to fourteen hours a day. Surprisingly, I increased both my work productivity and efficiency by waking up at certain hours, eating regularly, and going to sleep at night instead of in the early hours of the morning.
Though workaholism is oftentimes described as a “respectable addiction,” I know firsthand that it is destructive to your health and social life, both of which areimportant aspects of your overall wellbeing. If you cannot stop thinking about work, then it is time to take action and take control of your schedule. Create a to-do list that incorporates both work-related assignments and non-work-related tasks, such as catching up with an old roommate or phoning your best friend after she finishes her last class. Schedule breaks for a few light snacks, or better yet, some rejuvenating exercise. Take a walk around the block, play with your dog, or hit the treadmill! Though work is definitely a vital element to any healthy lifestyle, it is one that can easily take over your entire life if you do not regulate its impact on the other equally important aspects of your daily schedule.
by Angel Neal
The most anticipated time of the year for college students is right around the corner. After a long year of hard work and dedication, it’s time to break away from the chains of feeding the brain; time for a full week to let loose and do whatever you want. Some refer to it as paradise, but the correct term is “spring break.” There are so many things you can do for your spring break, but whatever you may choose you’re guaranteed to have fun. I came up with some ideas to help you decide what you might like to do for spring break 2010.
1. Take a Vacation
Taking a vacation is the most popular spring break choice among many college students. You can relax on an exotic island, go skiing in the mountains, study abroad… the possibilities are endless. Many colleges offer cruise vacation packages for spring break for their students’ pleasure. For example, Florida Agricultural Mechanical University is offering a spring break abroad in Jamaica for only $1000. The price is not half bad, because the cruise includes airfare, ground transportation, hotel accommodations with breakfast, and several cultural excursions. A cruise may not necessarily be for you, but whatever type of vacation you prefer, don’t just sit in your dorm or apartment; live free and explore our beautiful planet.
2. Road Trip
If you’re a college student looking for a less expensive spring break activity, you could always take a road trip. Grab your best friend or your significant other and invest in a map. Road trips are the best you get to bond more with your friends while exploring an unfamiliar place. All you need is gas money, a digital camera, a map, and a suitcase full of just the necessities. Split the money between you and your friends and I promise you, depending on how far you’re traveling you will not spend more than $250. So get to the open road—but please don’t speed!
3. Head to the Beach
If you’re a college student who doesn’t want to spend any money at all, you could always head to your local beach. Nothing says spring break like an album on Facebook full of beach photos with your buddies. Also it’s a great way to meet other college students and create new friendships. Just don’t forget your sun tan lotion!
Interested in doing something out of the spring break norm? You could always volunteer. Some students don’t prefer to use this sacred week to socialize and party; instead, they love to give back. Helping out shelters, nursing homes, and children centers are only a few things you could do. After helping others you will realize just how great your own life is, and feel as though reaching out to someone else is the right thing to do. And the best thing about volunteering is that it is free, so it will cost you nothing but time.
5. Relax Relax Relax
If you’re the type of student who struggles with a course overload, extracurricular activities, and a part time job, don’t fret because spring break is here for you. You can choose to do nothing but relax. You’re not obligated to do anything for your spring break, because it’s your week off. Catch up on some must needed rest, and your body will thank you.
Students around the world enjoy your spring break. Live it up or slow it down—the decision is yours.
By Katherine J. Chen
At the dinner table, I had surprised my parents with tickets to see “Wicked” on Broadway. Over steaming plates of pork buns and bok choy, I waved three tickets triumphantly in the air. My mother was ecstatic; it had been such a long time since the three of us went out together to watch a show. My father, being the more practical one in the family, asked how much the tickets had cost. I simply shook my head and returned to shoveling spoonfuls of rice into my mouth.
I had only just graduated from high school, and was offered a job over the summertime to work as a student mentor for an education start-up. Having little to no talent for financial affairs, I splurged half of my first month’s earnings on these three precious, emerald-green tickets. I could picture it now: my parents sitting in the front row, as costumed actors pranced across the stage belting out show tunes. New York awaited. The sweet smell of garbage billowing up from the sewers. The glittering lights of neon signs. Skyscrapers that plunged into the gray clouds above. I finished my dinner with zest that evening, thinking that nothing could go wrong.
Looking back, I realize that I was more than a little naïve. Two years ago, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. He wore a colostomy bag for several months during chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and was later informed by his doctor that he could remove it by undergoing a simple procedure. In mid-July, we went to the hospital together, thinking that he would be out in time for both the “Wicked” show and my upcoming birthday. A few hours after the operation was deemed a “success”, he began to vomit blood. Suddenly, every part of his body was fighting to survive what should have been a straightforward and easy operation. I still remember that summer as being one of the worst seasons of my life. Thankfully, I was able to work at home during that time, which allowed me more hours to spend at the hospital with my parents.
The situation today is not much better. In light of the economic situation, it came as no surprise when my father’s company of twenty years finally closed down. My father was not only out of a job but also still extremely weak. He could barely function without breaking down from sheer exhaustion. Lifting a lightweight chair could cause his arms to buckle and his rectum to bleed from the strain. As a result, my mother and I were forced to take over the family. She began working part-time at a major department store, and I balanced my university coursework with a job at a consulting company and several writing/editorial internships.
Pursuing a career when personal problems are raging at home is no easy task. We have no health insurance, which means that the bills for my father’s upcoming operation will require us to pay the money directly out of our own pockets. I have no interest, however, in becoming a typical sob story. My mother and I both work hard for the money we earn, and I have my eyes fixed on the bright future ahead of me.
My regular weekly schedule usually runs as follow: Two to three days spent living on campus, attending lectures, seminars, and precepts, and three days in New York City, working in the office as an editorial intern for a major magazine. After getting off at 6 o’clock and taking the 194 home, I usually begin working on writing assignments (which range from articles for magazines and websites to American literature essays) and any internship projects that are due soon. My mother’s work ethic inspires me, and my father’s sad situation invigorates my spirit. I know that after working for over twenty years in a printing factory, he deserves to be taken care of during these difficult times.
In any job, personal problems are bound to come up at some point or another, whether it is at the peak of your career or at the edge of retirement. However, it is also important to do what you love in life. I would never compromise my passion for writing for any reason, despite what is going on in my life or in the lives of others. Instead, I try to schedule time for my own creative writing, even when tensions are running high at home and my mother is all but pulling out her hair.
My parents and I have hopes and dreams for better times ahead that aren’t plagued with so many financial worries and health problems. I dream still of New York; Skyscrapers that plunge into gray clouds, glittering neon lights, dancers belting out show tunes on stage. I work for my dreams, for my career, and also, of course, for my parents.