Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is Graduation Good?

The biggest thing I have noticed from my fellow graduates is a negative outlook on graduating, especially for those not continuing on to graduate schools.  Personally, I know I have felt the same way from time to time and these feelings are apparently termed the "Post-Grad Blues."
It's definitely a huge change to go from being in school every year to all of a sudden not having that security blanket to go back to in the Fall.  Most of us have been consistently in school since kindergarten, so school has taken a good majority (around 17 years) of our life.  For the first time we're heading out on our own to meet the world without the protection of school or our parents.  Instead of looking for 'jobs' we're searching for 'careers.'  And in doing so, we are looking for our future, and that's a bit daunting at 21/22 years old.  Especially after having the freedom in college to hang out and party with your friends whenever you wanted.  Now with graduating, we have lost that freedom and social acceptance to just do what we wanted when we wanted.

I'm sure some of us had our futures planned out, I know I did.  I always wanted to be a teacher.  But I did not plan that when I graduated it would be in an economy still recovering from the recession of 2008 and an economy where teaching was one of the most difficult careers to enter.  It's an earth-shattering revelation that what we expected for ourselves is now seemingly unattainable.  How do you become a teacher when there are no openings?  When there are already substitute teachers who have been subbing for 7+ years with no luck?  And teaching is only one of the many careers that are feeling the heat right now.  There is an overabundance of us graduates, but comparatively few 'dream' positions.
Perhaps the scariest part of graduating is that come Fall is the time when payments for our student loans start being due.  So on top of dim job prospects we are expected to pay back thousands of dollars we were forced to take out for our over-priced college education.  I think anyone in this situation would be 'blue.'

Now that does look like a bleak picture indeed.  And it's very clear why so many graduates dread the idea of graduating.  But it's important to look back at those past four years of our life in college and look at what we achieved, at what we learned, and at what we struggled through.  Personally, I'm sure glad I don't have to write another senior thesis on the history of the Crusades or have to deal with freshman roommate horror stories.  No more gen. ed. classes that you were never interested in, no more gross dining hall food, no more walking 5+ minutes to wherever your car is parked in the middle of a brutal New England winter, no more all nighters studying for something you clearly will not remember nor care about.

To graduate, we gave up a lot of these struggles to take on a whole new set.  But now we know that we can do it, that we can survive and thrive.  We learned we can solve problems on our own, we can move away from home, we can be independent, and so many things more important than what is taught in a classroom.

Graduating shouldn't be about what we lost, but the experience we have gained.  And how we apply this experience and knowledge to the rest of our lives.  That is what really comes after graduating, life.  It may be the unknown and it may be unsure, but that is what is really on the other side of that stage.  But I think that deep inside we all know that despite our initials 'blues' and our initial fear, the best is yet to come.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Last night was the second full fire of the 2012 WaterFire season, and my third season as a volunteer.  For those who don't know WaterFire, it is a non-profit arts organization with 'performances' or lightings almost every other Saturday during the summer season.  Each lighting is sponsored by a company (or companies) and is run mainly through the hundreds of volunteers.  Contrary to what most people seem to believe, WaterFire is not just about the fires that are lit up and down the rivers in downtown Providence.  Each event has so much going on on shore as wekk.  For example, last night was sponsored by AMICA Insurance and celebrated Gaspee Days with various events along the river like long boats and drum corps.  Additionally there was a performance by the RI Shakespeare Theatre, the opening of the Portuguese Heritage Festival, and the Ten31 gargoyles and oracles at the World War memorial.

With the gargoyles a few years ago
WaterFire is such a great event.  It is a whole artistic experience with lots of detail and care put into every performance; because that is what it is.  A performance.  To complete the performance all WaterFire volunteers are dressed in black.  This shows a united community working together to put on that performance.  And that truly is the feel of WaterFire, the atmosphere of the night is one of community.  A community of people coming together to put on the performance and a community of people coming to support the performance.  It is really moving to play a small part in the WaterFire.

When people visit and support WaterFire they see all the art behind the lighting but there is so much more that goes into WaterFire behind the scenes.  Preparation begins days in advance and the morning off a lighting volunteers are there around 8:00am to build the fires and get ready for the night.  My Dad and I volunteer on the wood boats and while this is my third season, this is my dad's sixth or seventh so he's been doing this for a long time.  He is a wood boat captain and as such we always arrive early in the evening to help out on the river and the boats.  Last night the lighting began at 8:40pm but we were there at 6pm!  And we did not stop until 12:30am!  It's a long night but very rewarding!  Here's a little breakdown of what our night looked like:

6pm-Arrived at the volunteer check in.  Got on our boat Eos and with another volunteer began pulling brazier rain covers.  It took about a half an hour to get half of the braziers uncovered and the covers folded.

6:30pm-Went to the AMICA tent they set up at AMICA sponsored WaterFires.  My dad is an employee at AMICA so we went in and got some food.

7:00pm-Head back to the dock to check the boats and meet our first mate for the evening.

7:30pm-Dad had the Captain's meeting where the captains and first mates from all the boat meet with the volunteer coordinator to discuss the lighting ceremony and 'feed' positions (who is charge of what fires).

8:00pm-Got our crew members on the boat and waited for our guest lighters.

8:30pm-Around this time we headed out on the procession to get our torch lit in the basin and moved to our assigned braziers, lighting began around 8:40.

9:15-11:40pm-This is when we fed the fires as they get low.  We usually go out to feed around every twenty or so minutes and each feed is about 15/20 minutes long.  When we're not feeding we usually tie up under one of the bridges to stay out of sight and keep an eye on our fires.  At this point we have our 'breaks' where we have water or snacks.  If we get low on wood we use the breaks instead to reload our boats.

12am-Crew members got let off around the river to help with strike.  Strike is disassembling the on shore parts of WaterFire.  Every crew member is asked to volunteer for strike for about 30 minutes.  It seems like a lot but when everyone helps it goes fairly quickly.  Last night I helped take down Starry, Starry Night, clean up the Guest Dock, and helped with the Brazier Society on College Street.

12:30am-The captains and first mates arrive from storing the wood boats and guest boats.  When my dad gets back we meet up at the dock.  At this point usually everyone from the crew goes out for a drink all together and hang out after the end of the event.  Around 1:30am we left to go home!

It's a really fun experience and I can't picture spending my Saturday evenings anywhere else!  The next lighting is June 23rd and with sunset around 8:20, the lighting will be around 8:40pm again.  If you are interesting in attending (or volunteering at) WaterFire here is the schedule:
New volunteers are always needed! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

That Dreaded Question...

"So what are you going to do in the fall?"

I hate that question, but it's the one EVERYONE asks.  Even before I graduated everyone had already begun to ask what my plans were; where I'd be living, where I'd be working, what I planned to do with my life.  Ultimately the answer is that I don't know yet.  I'm almost 22 with only a couple thousand saved up, student loans to repay, and a long distance relationship that involves expensive travel costs...I don't have much I can do.

I understand that this is the natural question to ask college graduates, but in this economy and especially in such a small state there are not many opportunities.  It's not like our parents' or grandparents' generations where when they graduated they had job offers and opportunities.  Teaching elementary school in the USA especially has dismal job prospects and comes with negative attitudes from many outside the profession.

Last I checked my parents didn't have their lives figured out at 22.  It's an unfair assumption that every college graduate is supposed to know what they want out of life at such a young age.  I honestly don't know.  I have a grand scheme of where I see my life heading but it doesn't involve a specific job or location yet and I think that is only natural.  Why would I settle now?  When I'm young, active, and able to travel and see the world.

So as yet another person asks me that dreaded questions I force a smile and bite my tongue and politely say, "Well I'm not quite sure yet." and explain my plan.  I've already been accepted as a substitute teacher to one local district, have my same job available in the fall at the YMCA, and will look into nanny positions a couple times a week.  I am not above working three jobs and have also applied to three English teaching positions in Spain so far and am in the process of working on my Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant) application and improving my Spanish.

Maybe it's not my ideal plan, but at this age I am open for adventure.  So I look forward to my two month adventures in Spain this summer, I deserve it.