Unplugging for a Social Media Addict

Yesterday I unplugged. From facebook, my iPhone, my personal email… basically all of the things that I check multiple times a day, every day. I did it along with many members of the Bates community as part of the “Present Tense” experiment. Put on by the Multifaith Chaplaincy and many other organizations on campus, its events included the annual Andrews lecture. A list of events for the week can be found here.

Tuesday afternoon my yoga class was cancelled– my teacher did it to encourage all of the students to attend the Andrews lecture, where Scott Belsky would be speaking. Scott is a really, really cool guy. He is articulate and intelligent and creative. Give his website a look to get a better idea of him here — lucky that the first thing you see on that page is a giant photo… I totally had a crush on him. He’s so smart! And so cute! Anyway… he gave a talk about “present tense” — how we’re all so plugged in to the  constantly updating feed of information that our lives have become entirely reactionary. Coming from the business world, he didn’t propose anything outrageous or impossible– he acknowledged that connection is neccessary and that communication is integral to effective business. He simply suggested being mindful, maybe by creating boundaries to keep yourself unplugged for at least a little bit each day. He was a great speaker, and fielded questions afterwards.

The next day, I was really amped up to unplug. Using my clock radio to wake up was a little silly at the beginning of the day, but I felt really free. I kept my phone on, but it was in my backpack the entire day. I told most people that I would be unplugged, so it didn’t create too many issues. I really enjoyed it. But it DID make it hard for my work (on twitter and facebook for the theater department). I’ve always been very interested in technology, social media, the internet, online communications etc in more than just a “i like to use facebook to stalk people” way. The possibilities for connections and keeping up correspondence despite being worlds away are incredible. I wrote my college essay about the internet and using it to connect with people; now, as I zero in on careers, social media has become one of my most utilized and demanded skills. There it is: self-proclaimed social media addict. And I unplugged. And you can too!

You don’t have to do it for a week, you don’t have to unplug across all platforms. You could try merely not checking your facebook for one day and it would still be effective. It will bring you away from being reactionary, and your creativity and free mind can help you be a little bit more proactive about your life.

I understand this may sound a little wonky, but I found a lot of value in the experience, and I’m so glad that Bates (from all different angles, departments, and organizations) was supportive of the experiment.


Some PR High Points

I am a person that likes results. I like to be able to point to something, right there, look, I produced that. Concrete end products are endlessly satisfying to me. I’m all for toiling hour after hour, day after day, working hard– but I love seeing how far I’ve come, everything culminating in something that can measure success and progress.

So obviously, I do not live in a fairy land so I know that seeing results and getting credit and all that junk isn’t always possible OR appropriate but it doesn’t mean I like it any less. Perhaps it even makes me crave it more! Anyways, PR is a lot of behind the scenes moving and shaking. You seek out reporters to try and interest them in a client, you answer requests for those searching for experts on a specific topic, you help craft their responses and images to be something, well, worth what they paid for. This is something I’m getting used to– and yet still finding ways to point to exciting results that I had something to do with.

Here are two things that I’ve personally had quite a lot to do with, including but not limited to: contacting the outlets, editing and assisting with the piece itself, sending and confirming with the outlet, and trying to get the pieces well publicized. I hope you like them! I’m pretty proud that after 8 weeks of making lists, sending emails, doing research and writing drafts of things that don’t necessarily go anywhere, I have some real results to look at (and boast about).

Huffington Post: What Massachusetts Alimony Reform Really Means
She Thinks: A Perspective from the East Coast 

There are, of course, countless other things that I’ve had something to do with, be it a press release sent out and later covered, an opportunity to get a client quoted in a publication, making massive charts about who and when something should be sent out, etc. But these I feel very personally connected to, in my own “i’m pointing at this! it’s an end result! I made something happen!” way.

Anyway, I only have two weeks left of my internship! I’ve learned a lot so far, and gained a lot of good experience. But now I’m getting excited to head back to school, though before I’ll be heading down to visit my friend Schuyler in New Orleans for a few days!! That’s the update for now.

Fading into Deep Summer

July. 90 degrees. Undeniably summertime. And, accordingly, my life has slowly acclimated itself to a slow-paced but jam-packed lifestyle that keeps me awake just long enough to toss and turn a little in the hot Boston nights. Did that make sense? It might not have. But here’s the basics: I’m pretty much in a routine, but repeating things each day doesn’t necessarily make it easier to find more energy and go forth and adventure more. Sounds boring right? It is– but I’m pretty okay with it.

My internship has continued at a steady pace. As predicted, the more I learn, the more comfortable I am and the more enjoyable the experience can be. But there’s still something incredibly exhausting about leaving my house at 7:30 AM to catch a train to get into Boston, and then walking for 25 minutes to my office where I will sit for 8 and a half hours before heading back to the train station and, eventually home. I arrive on my doorstep around 6:30, 11 hours after I left. Some nights, if I’m feeling particularly courageous, I will head to the gym and then by the time I get home again, it’s 8 pm, and I eat some dinner before passing out. Writing that makes my life sound a lot more monotonous and depressing than it actually is; this summer is a lesson in growing up. And it’s a lesson that I picked out for myself. Each morning, when I join the mass of people exiting the trains at North Station, I feel anonymous though strangely part of a very large whole– I’m a commuter— going to work in the city— aside tall women with umbrellas, short men with lunch bags, young people, old people, people I know, strangers… The small satisfaction that comes from recognizing strangers who share mysame routine is perhaps odd– but never fails to merit a smile. In this case, each day is so much the same: it starts the same, it ends the same, I sit in the same chair all day typing on the same keyboard looking periodically out the same window. So it is in the tiny variations from routine that I perk up and out of my summer haze. Some days one of my best friends catches the same train as me going home– we always try to find seats next to each other and joke about how boring we are and corporate lunches and recount stories from high school that at that junction seem so far away we cant help but laugh and shiver a little at the thought of senior year approaching.

For honesty’s sake: this post was inspired by a creeping feeling of sadness after my beloved and now departed camp job started yesterday– without me. I knew it would happen, but it’s been harder for me to move on than I anticipated and yesterday I had so many moments where, while typing away at my desk or making phone calls, I would think to myself “I wonder how camp is going?” But, as I’ve said a million times before and will continue to echo until it actually sinks in: I have to grow up, no matter how scary and unpleasant it is.

Transmissions from the Real World

Sorry for the hiatus in posting, but life post-Paris has been hectic yet slow, engaging yet dragging, but mostly just… not Paris. I can only imagine that anything I post from now on will pale in comparison to the posts from this past semester –rich in photos from exotic locations from around the world and vignettes of my experiences traveling internationally. I categorize my time in Paris as very idyllic and in that, very not real life. So… the transition into my current situation has been slightly jarring. Enter: the real life summer internship.

I am at this point, half-way (GOD, it’s only WEDNESDAY!?) through my third week of my summer internship. I’m a Public Relations Intern at The Castle Group and lets be up front– I know nothing about public relations. Well– I knew nothing. I’m learning– slowly. I figured the publicity work I’d done on campus for student orgs like WRBC or the Rob Players would have appropriately prepared me to work in a real firm. Guess what? I was wrong. I am learning new strategies, techniques, protocalls and research skills every day. But I have to say — it’s hard to ask for help.

So let’s just rewind back to June 6, my first day of work. Could barely move I was so nervous. Accidentally got to my office (which is on the Navy Pier in Charlestown, MA) 45 minutes early. Anxiety was brewing like morning coffee in my stomach and I could feel my chest tighten with each step I took towars the elevator. Yeah, that bad. The first day of any internship or job, I can imagine, has got to suck. I mean, you don’t know what you’re doing, you aren’t familiar with the routine, the staff, the facilities or the tools you’re supposed to use. I was tucked into a corner at a desk and essentially just “familiarized” myself with the clients and a database all day. And didn’t talk to anyone. And when I say all day– I mean it. No one told me “hey we’re having lunch” and I was too freaked out to notice until 4 pm, when I realized, “shoot, I’m really hungry.”

I came home that day pretty bummed. I hadn’t anticipated it to be so hard. I like to put myself into situations that I’m prepared for– to minimize stress and embarrasment. But sometimes… that’s impossible. That night I thought about the decision I’d made about this summer– choosing an unpaid internship (that’s good for my resume) instead of returning to beloved theater day camp where I am worshipped by 9 year olds and dance to top 40 hits all summer. But, I got up the next morning and went to work. That morning happened to be my birthday. I was also still so nervous I failed to tell any of my coworkers about the occasion, and every few minutes when my phone would buzz announcing another wallpost from facebook, I’d shove it in deeper in my bag to try and stifle the noise from the vibration. But, you know what? It got better. They told me when they were all eating lunch! And that was all I needed. From then on, I was less afraid and I tried harder.

I met people. I started remembering names and getting a feel for the office– the dynamics, the schedules, the work. I met the other interns and found  that they were all really nice and helpful. (Though with them, I usually find myself running to catch up. As an English major from Bates, at school I learned “how to learn.” So I know how to write, and now am slowly picking up the specific application of my skills to this career. The other interns, however, are all communications or marketing or PR majors. I think they have a head start…)

I find myself with a purpose now– each morning it’s my job to come in and compile and send out a document of all the news coverage of any of our accounts or their competitors from the past day. I feel entrenched in this grown-up 9-5 (which is really 7:30-6:30 if you include the commute) lifestyle, and you all know how I feel about growing up. (And if you don’t, it’s that I’m scared– I’m really really scared of growing up.)

I will admit that this working girl routine has got me super tired out– my bed time usually falls somewhere around 10:30, unless there exists some extenuating circumstances. It was just such a staggering switch– to go from living this life in Paris that was all about my own life and experiences on my own schedule, to a regimented, business casual full-time job (while living with my parents, no less). But I think that happens anyways– reverse culture shock, right? I was watching an episode of “Covert Affairs” ondemand (please don’t judge my social life or television viewing decisions, I stand by them) that was set in Paris, and each new scene made my heart break a little more. That street corner! It was right by my school. The Louvre! I had class there every Wednesday night! That bakery! They make the best baguette in Montmartre! etc etc. Clearly I left a little bit of me in Paris, but I’m trying to fill myself in with this new, adult, successful and passionate person who sits at her desk each day and is slowly trying to learn everything she can about this big new world.

See you in 9 months, Bates

Home again, home again. Except this time there’s a permanence; heading back to school isn’t just around the bend. Instead the next great adventure is Paris, France for Winter semester. I leave January 14th and won’t be back until the very end of May. Okay, true confessions? I’m terrified. I spent much of this semester very ready, very excited to go abroad and experience something new and different. And then as finals week began to wind down, I was struck by the seriousness of the situation. I finished my last Shakespeare paper and realized that I had to pack, and that I was done, and that I would be leaving for a very long time. After France, is a grown up internship for the summer, then senior year, then the real world. If these past 5 semesters have passed by so quickly, I started to think I’d blink and poof! Be in the real world.

Packing up my room was quite the bummer. I’d turned my little single into my inner sanctum, covered in posters from every theater, music and art event of the last three years. It was so sad to take everything down. I’d been super busy with finals all week and then had to buckle down and pack it all up Friday morning before I drove home that afternoon. Near the end of the process, it was a sad sight:

And now I’m home. Don’t get me wrong, I ‘m so glad to be here and spend time with my family and friends, but I’m already missing Bates way more than expected. I guess I’ll just have to get ready to embrace abroad. Paris countdown: 25 days!

Leaving by Airplanes on Trips Long and Short

T-minus two weeks until school. My house is an interesting place at the moment, strewn with belongings and suitcases, none of them mine. On Tuesday, both my newly graduated brother and myself will be taking trips. I, of course, am heading to New Orleans for 4 days for a quick visit before school. Kevin, however, is taking a giant, post-grad LEAP and moving to Italy for 14 months. Wait, what?? I know. You’re like, am I supposed to be sorry or something? THAT SOUNDS AMAZING!

So I’m just packing a duffel bag with clothes I hope will withstand the late August New Orleans heat, and this isn’t really about me. Sure, I’m getting a ride to the airport that day, too, but you have got to wonder what my parents are going to be feeling at the end of that day. Empty? Sad? Relieved? Hopefully they will be feeling at least a little bit satisfied, because tomorrow, the day before the day when everyone leaves, my mother is closing on the lake house of her dreams, and we all will be able to be there for the big moment when she signs the paper and all of her dreams come true (or at least the ones that exist in this realm of possibility).

Anyways: in my continuing and growing interest (obsessive fear?) regarding “the real world” and having a future after graduation, I will discuss the miraculous adventure my older brother will be setting off on come Tuesday. Kevin graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in May. He spent most of his time there studying theater (acting, directing, sound designing) and it is truly his passion. (Here you may see a family trend of theatrical interest, however, mine stays strictly in the extracurricular field while his became his main focus). His junior year, he went abroad to Arezzo, Italy to study Comedia Dell Arte. I would link to the program, because it’s really spectacular, but their website has recently been hacked. Instead, I will provide a silly photo of my brother while at said program. update: the site is back up. Check it out HERE.

Perhaps it had something to do with character work??

Fast forward to this spring, leading up to graduation, Kevin, like so many others in the class of 2010, didn’t have a clear idea of what his life would be after graduation, other than working (with ME!) for the summer at Creative Arts summer camp. So then, like, by some networking MIRACLE, in a WHIRLWIND, all of the sudden he got a job offer to return as an administrative assistant/director/general dude to help out AND HE GETS PAID, AND HE GETS TO LIVE IN ITALY. Needless to say, my parents are totally thrilled and Kevin, also, seems pleased. These days it seems like you’re incredibly lucky to find a paying gig, to find a job in a field relevant to your experience and your goals, or a job with a definite time period. To find all three of these for your first year out seems kind of like a dream.

So I’m not really sure of what all his responsibilities will be, (in fact I don’t know if he really knows) but this job is an example of using networking skills. Here is how the web of people was completed and the job was found. Try to follow. Graduation day, Sarah Lawrence College, a Saturday in May (and yes, I was there. I missed the last weekend of short term to fly to New York because I love my brother so much). The guy that runs the program in Arezzo has a son in the graduating class (this is convenient and AWESOME coincidence #1). This son happened to be in a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that Kevin directed earlier that spring (#2!)  Upon running into his father, my parents were talking about (of course) what’s next for the newly graduated “adults” and my mom made a joke about giving him a job out in Italy. While she laughed, the program director didn’t, and said that Kevin should email him. (coincidence #3/ MIRACLE #1!!) So he did. And talks were had, and they were good!!

I guess what I’m trying to say is a) I’m very proud of my brother for getting a job in an environment that seems very difficult for post grads (especially those in theater) b) I’m thinking to my graduation day two years down the line, and wondering… Will I not have any plans when I walk at graduation? Somehow I think I’m too proactive (read: neurotic) to not have 78 billion back up plans, but it’s a very possible situation. Well if that is the case, then c) I hope I can take it as casually as Kevin did, because it was his ease and positive attitude that led to solving his no-plans situation in a timely and totally awesome way.

Check back next week for photos of me being a faux southern belle!

A Sigh of Relief, kind of

So I’m done. With work. For the summer. And I feel like it went by far too quickly, and that it’s still the middle of the summer. But it isn’t. There are only three short weeks left until I pack up my car and go back to school! I definitely need these three weeks to chill out after working so intensely for 6 weeks. Working all day with children is both exhilarating and exhausting, but always rewarding. I love this job, I love everything about it. I love the kids, I love the staff, I love the program, I love the lessons we teach and the fact that every Friday we have themed dress-up days, and after two years, when I walk into Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning they are no longer phased by whatever ridiculousness I might be sporting that day. (Be it a full body spandex super hero costume, a mustache and mens clothes, full out goth attire, pajamas, or a tiara).

But for a lot of the summer there’s been a slight dark cloud hanging over my mind. It’s the real world. I can’t escape it. It’s the fact that I know this should be my last summer, that next summer I really should get a resume relevant internship. And it isn’t as though I don’t want to try the office game. Rather, I think it would be pretty fun, you know, dressing up all business casual, commuting, being a serious adult…

On the last day of camp yesterday, it was so incredibly painful to stand and pretty much lie to 9 year olds, some who I’ve come to know and care for deeply. “You’re coming back next summer, right Nora? I want to be in your group forever!” There is no way to answer a crying 9 year old truthfully without breaking all hearts involved. Even the “we’ll see”s and the “I hope so!”s weren’t cutting it. And even though I began the summer with a firm plan in my mind that this would be my last summer where  I ran around all day playing with nerf guns and kickballs and making projects with construction paper, the last day of camp made me feel a slight urge to reconsider.

For many people, being a camp counselor was something to do in high school. But my camp only hired college students, and I spent my high school summers doing various enrichment programs. So for me, while definitely understanding and being behind the reasoning for not allowing high school counselors, I feel kind of ripped off. Here I am, still wishing to have more time to go to camp, and I’m so close to entering the real world that I can’t really afford it. Maybe this is me holding myself to high standards; I’m the second youngest staff member out of 35 or so, with many people returning year after year, including after graduation. But for me, it’s not relevant. I love LOVE kids, and I enjoy theater, but I just don’t see myself pursuing it in the future. So I have to move on, and it’s okay. At least now I can face my attentions towards my exciting trip to New Orleans and then SCHOOL!!!