Category Archives: Work

Transition Anxiety

Graduation, high school edition.

It is the end of the first week of my last semester of school.

For the past handful of months, I have been dreading graduation. When friends or family or anyone for that matter has asked if I am looking forward to graduation, my head tends to instinctively shake from side to side, my eyes start rolling, and

I say, “No way…the only thing I’m good at being is a student.”

Before high school graduation, I did not experience any of this angsty anxiousness. I looked forward to college–to the “best years of my life” that my parents had waxed on about during many a family dinner. But this time around, it seems different.

Now, in my head (or I should say in the one month ago head of mine), I equated graduation with 1] my parents cutting off the strings of financial support; 2] separation from most of the friends that I have met throughout college as we all go our separate ways across the globe; and 3] a ho-hum, 9-to-5 job.

But I’m starting to warm up to this whole graduation idea, starting to realize that life can be great even when not bracketed by syllabi and finals.

The change was mostly mental.

After fourteen more weeks, my life as an “official” student will end. But when I get done with my courses for this semester, I will be free to study what I want when I want. Not all “learning” costs upwards of $17,000 in tuition each semester. This semester, I am taking Russian History, US-China Relations, Geopolitics of the 21st Century, Chinese Literature, and Fitness Swimming. I could learn about Geopolitics from a few good blogs or an Economist subscription, learn about Russian History with a public library subscription, learn about U.S.-China Relations from a conversation with a friend, and learn about….well, you get the point. Most learning costs nothing at all.

The second point–missing my college friends–is a more stubborn mental speed bump. I will miss my friends a lot, but graduation this time might actually be easier than it was the first time–when I left Washington State for Washington, DC. I still remember trying to ‘man up’ and hold back the tears when, after hanging out with my best high school friends for the last time, I popped a burned CD into my car stereo and this song, chosen by one of my good friends Brooke, started playing. My attempt at toughness failed when Eddie Vedder got to the second verse:

my dreams suddenly seem so empty
i could go on my own, but i feel like playin’ dead
and for what feels like the first time
i don’t know where you are tonight
i guess that this is goodbye

But after the song got over and I boarded a plane the next morning, Vedder was wrong: my friends actually did know where I was. It’s easy–easier than ever before, dare I say–to keep in touch with long-distance friends. I have even grown closer with some friends from high school since graduation. I expect it to be the same way this time around.

High school amigos

And last: the job.

It doesn’t help that not too long ago I read And Then We Came To The End, a book that makes office life seem about as enjoyable as being a Syracuse fan. But then, more recently, I read another book. It is an affordable and accessible book that I have already mentioned once before but I can’t help but mention again: The Art of Nonconformity.  I read it on the bus rides to and from work each day for a while. I would read a few pages, and those few pages would almost always get me thinking about how what Chris was saying fit into my life, and then BAM, I was at work. So it took a while to finish, but it was well worth it.

It turns out, a job is what you make of it.

If I’m unsatisfied with a class at school, I tend to switch out. If I’m unsatisfied with a book, I tend to stop reading it. A job is no different: in fact, the consequences are often worse if you don’t quit. The years of lifelong, fixed employment are over. The average twentysomething will work seven jobs throughout the span of these ten glorious years. If I’m unsatisfied with my future office environment, either I will look for opportunities to improve it, or if that seems impossible, I will search for a new job. Don’t settle. Your job is not just a way to fill up the weekdays and pay the bills until the weekend (finally) arrives. Your job should engage and challenge and bewilder and fascinate you.

As for me, I got my first job offer earlier this week, and while I am still not sure if I will accept it, I do know that it is the type of job that would definitely pass the Devon Test. So would my other top job options. Graduation will come in May, and the next phase will be even more unpredictable and exciting as the last.

It’s the same way for any major transition in life.

Maybe you are about to enter the married life and worried that you will miss bachelorhood more than a 6th grader misses recess. Or maybe you are about to have your first kid and you can’t stop having nightmares about dirty diapers. Perhaps you are about to be an empty-nester, or about to switch jobs, or about to retire. You and I both can’t escape the about to‘s.

Instead of dreading the transitions, latch onto the mindset of a wandering hitchhiker and allow yourself to enjoy the ride. Allow yourself to constantly search, experience, and evaluate new places, new people, new books, new foods, new ideas, new hobbies, new arts, new sports, and new lifestyles. This way, life will never be dull. Better yet, the nostalgia for some past life stage will be outweighed by the excitement for current life.

On May 21, 2011, at 6:00 PM on Healy Lawn, commencement will commence.

Hooray.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Life, Our Generation, School, Work

How to Tame the Internet

The Internet has already revolutionized the student life. Need to remember the name of that obscure Russian czar or Supreme Court case? Wikipedia is there for you, rain or snow. Can’t figure out how to make corn on the cob? howtocookcornonthecob.com is waiting to give you the low-down. Want to find out the name of the cute girl from Friday’s party? Facebook, here we come.

But for all the virtues of the Internet, we also tend to waste an incredible amount of time on here. If I could think of the perfectly distracting device for the urban student or the suburban worker, it would probably look something like the Internet: anything and everything you have ever wanted to see, read, or hear–all accessible from the comfort of your couch, bed, or coffee shop stool. And most of the time, this is pretty great. My life is better now that “Marcel the Shell” and the “Sneezing Panda” are a part of it, for sure.

But if  you ever want to spend less time consuming and more time creating, less time distracted and more time focused, here is my (work in progress) guide to do so.

  1. Streamline. This will probably be old news for most of you, but just in case: set up a Google Reader (click reader on the top bar of your gmail) and then add the URLs of all the blogs and sites that you like to read on a regular basis. With a Google Reader, you no longer have to click individual blogs to find out if they have posted anything new. This works especially well for blogs that do not update daily, like those of two of my fellow Georgetown students: Austin Yoder and Malin Hu.  You can just visit Google Reader once or twice a day and get your fix. Google Reader includes all the pictures and links from your favorite sites, and then formats and centralizes all of them. Awesome.
  2. Readability. When you are not using Google Reader and are, instead, reading a long newspaper or magazine article with lots of ads, multiple pages, and distracting graphics, there is an incredible and free widget called “Readability.” If I am reading an article that looks like this, for example:

without Readability

and then make one quick click and wait three seconds, the screen magically transforms into this:

with Readability

Gone are all the ads, extras, and formatting changes. What’s left is the entire article (multi-page or not) in a single page of an easy-to-read text. An 8-page New York Times magazine article will suddenly be much, much easier and quicker to read. I think you will find it very useful.

3. Starve your Inbox. Checking your email can be addictive and time consuming. To make it less so, 1) unsubscribe from all of the recurring email lists that you are on (except for those that you always read), 2) create tags to organize your emails, 3) archive all messages after you have responded to them, and 4) end each day with only two types of emails sitting in your box: those that require a pending response or task–marked with an exclamation mark–and those that you have just received and not yet read.  The end result might be something like this:

4. Clear Your Desk. Your desktop should be as empty as possible. If you have a bunch of files and documents, store them in My Documents or in Folders on your Desktop instead. Leave as much empty space as possible. Here is my Desktop. It’s still a bit cluttered, but better than before:

5. Create. If you don’t really want to decrease the amount of time you spend on the Internet but want to channel it in more productive and interesting ways, there are lots of ways to do so. For me, I decided to create a blog after I was inspired by my high school friend Chris who publishes exactly one hundred words each day and is starting a writing movement of sorts while attending Stanford over at All of 100. For you, if blogging is not your thing, consider using the Internet to learn a language (http://chinesepod.com/), start a new hobby (http://www.wikihow.com/Learn-to-Fence) or challenge how you think (http://bigthink.com/)

6. Freedom is Not Always Free. Last but not least, if you want to go cold turkey, check out FREEDOM. You set the number of minutes that you want to not have access to the Internet, and it then blocks your wandering finger from opening a new window and checking the latest basketball game score or Politico article. In this case, Freedom will cost you $10.00, but you can get a free trial version and see what you think.

Sometimes you will want distractions, and for that the Internet is your friend. But when you don’t want distractions, the Internet does not have to be your enemy.

I hope one or more of these tips help you conquer and tame the beast of the Internet.

Now get off my blog.

P.S. **For an update to the post The Year Before and the Year To Come, check out the ambitious and adventurous New Years Resolutions of Scott Dinsmore over at his blog Reading for Your Success.

2 Comments

Filed under Life, Work