Sunday, July 25, 2010

"A Note of Introduction"

If there's one thing I learned this past year by applying to grad school, it's that I'm not very good at talking about myself.  I know that may come as a surprise to those of you who know me, but writing about myself, without the benefit of tone of voice and hand gestures has proven to be one of the hardest things about getting into grad school (the other involves a tetanus shot and lying to my insurance company -- more about that in a future post).

Early last week, a member of the admissions staff sent out an e-mail suggesting that we all introduce ourselves via the newly established listserv.  Some future students dove in head first (these are the students that turn homework in early - you know who you are).  In reading what other students wrote, I learned pretty quickly what I didn't want to say and what I didn't want to sound like.  But anytime you are listing your accomplishments, you're going to sound full of yourself.  It's just the way it is.

So naturally, I put it off.  But today, I realized, it was probably time to do this thing, if for no other reason than that I will be in Chicago at the end of the week to look at apartments and would like to meet some of these people in person.  So I opened up my laptop, opened up a new e-mail, and then stared at a blank screen for the better part of two hours.  I know it was two hours because Bridget Jones' Diary was on TV and I watched pretty much the whole movie before sending the e-mail.

But then I got hungry, so I typed up a few lines and sent them off.  Like ripping off a band-aid, I figured.  And it was easier than I thought it would be. 

I wanted it to give people a little bit about myself, while leaving them wanting to meet me later.  I also wanted to avoid sounding trite or full of myself, something that wasn't necessarily achieved by others who e-mailed before me (If one more person tells me how "life changing" their study abroad experience was, I'm going to punch them. In the face.)

I think I succeeded.  I wrote a very short paragraph about my undergraduate degree and my current job, another paragraph asking if people want to meet up this weekend, and ended saying I looked forward to meeting people in person.  Maybe others will follow my example and keep it short and sweet.  These are journalism students we're talking about though, so... probably not.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Just Stuff

Two years ago, my house was robbed.  They took my laptop, a couple of digital cameras, and a whole bunch of jewelry.  I've replaced everything that could be replaced and long since finished mourning for the things that couldn't.  It was annoying, yes, but no one was in the house at the time, and, as my brother said to me when I told him, it was bound to happen living in DC.

I've been thinking about that time as I'm working on getting rid of most of my stuff before the move.  I like to think that I don't have that much stuff, and that I can get rid of it easily.  I'm not interested in taking my furniture, and my kitchen stuff isn't worth the box I would pack it in.  I spend hours fantasizing about dumping it all and starting from scratch on the other end.  But there's an awful lot of stuff that I can't get rid of.

I have souvenirs from my trip to Italy, and a box of stuff from my work covering the 2008 presidential campaign.  I have silly little gifts that my mother sent me over the years and a floppy stuffed dog that my best friend brought me when I was in the hospital in High School.  I could never get rid of those things.

But there's also notebooks from undergrad, and a box of Christmas decorations that haven't seen the light of day since 2006.  And original boxes for EVERYTHING (thanks Dad).  And I can't seem to get rid of these things either.

Lately, there's been a lot of news coverage of "hoarding" as a disease.  The Washington Post magazine devoted a whole weekend to uncovering the roots of one reporter's problem.  And just flip on TLC and you'll see show after show of people drowning in their stuff.  Some of it meaningful, some of it pure trash.  But what about those of us who keep neat, orderly houses, with hidden stashes of stuff in closets and under the bed?  What about those of us who don't necessarily hoard things, but don't live lives of total austerity either?

What is my irrational attachment to those college notebooks?  What are the chances that I will ever need to look back on my notes from "Foundations of American Political Thought"? (Sorry Prof. Kersh).  Why can't I get rid of some of the silly little things that my mother sent me, and keep only the ones that I really like or have special meaning?

In the end, practicality will rule the day.  It all has to fit in the back of my Subaru wagon.  And if it doesn't, then it may have to find a new home with someone who can appreciate it and not hide it all under the bed.  If it was all gone tomorrow, what things would I miss?  Probably not very much of it.  After all, it's just stuff.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin...

It's official.  I've told work, and just about everyone else I know, and in two short months, I'll be packing up the Subaru and heading to Chicago.  I intended to start a blog months ago, but kept coming up with reasons to put it off.  "No one at work knows," I'd say, or "what could I possibly have to say right now?"  But now, all excuses aside, it's time to begin.

When thinking about what to write in this first post, I couldn't decide (yet another reason to put off the first post).  Should it be an introduction?  I'm not sure I want to "begin at the beginning."  A mission statement?  Could be too cliche.  Or should I start in the middle and hope that you catch up?

In addition to getting in the habit of writing something regularly that other people will read, I want to get a chance to explore some of the ideas I have about the future of journalism and my future in it.  I hope that I can interact with my readers, as most of you will be friends.  For four years of work, and four years before that, I have been trained to have no opinion whatsoever.  More than anything else, I want to use this blog to develop some ideas I have and to work on expressing those ideas succinctly and persuasively.

I think it's good to set out what I hope to accomplish.  I think its also good to let people know what I'm up to.  And I hope it's good to read in the coming months and years where ever this next great adventure may take me.