Saturday, October 2, 2010

Full circle: How I came to be where I am now

a.k.a. The entry in which I try (and fail) to address the afore-mentioned 7,000 items in need of addressing.

First of all, thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my blog entry about life as a 15-year-old Yitka. I've had a lot of rich conversations with different people that came out of that entry - and it's that sort of meaningful content on the web that makes me, paradoxically enough given my reflections on The Shallows, excited about it as a medium. That entry alone has fetched well over 500 unique visitors, according to my GoogleAnalytics, which is rather unheard of for my humble little personal blog. (And Tom Atchity, I still owe you some book recommendations in response...)

I want to write about some other things first, but you'll find some afterthoughts on the DMTM entry at the end of this one.

So. I started school this past week. I am officially a full time student again - though the fact that all my classes are evening classes makes it feel very different than full time studenthood has in the past. The vast majority of people in my classes are in their late twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. Many have full time jobs already, but are looking for a change of scenery. It's amazing how many people are completely miserable in the jobs they do. And a shame, too. More power to all of them for having the courage to try something new. I think especially in this economy, it takes guts to not clutch on to job security, even at the cost of your soul.

I am pursuing a certificate in web design. After a couple years of feeling, admittedly, a bit huffy that my college degree didn't lead me straight into full time work, I'm realizing what a blessing in disguise it's all been - and how, given the chance, I wouldn't have it any other way. The truth is that at 17 or 18, most of us have no idea what we want to do for a career. A liberal arts education helps you figure out what you like to study, and it teaches you to be a professional, lifelong learner - which however priceless it may be, is not an especially marketable skill to throw down on a resume. Creative writing was the perfect major for me, as there's nothing that fires me up like thinking and learning about the written word - but does that mean I'll be happy in a writing job for 40 hours every week?

Not necessarily. I loved writing in school, and I still would love to go back and get my MFA someday...and in the meantime, sustain my soul with my own writing projects, and the omnipresent pursuit of publishing my own book. But writing for a job is very different from writing for yourself.

Don't get me wrong; I love the writing and editing I get to do for OutdoorsNW. (Did I mention that I got paid to bike around Oregon, drink wine, and write about it?) But in working for them and starting to rethink their web presence - an imperative at this point in time for all print media publications - I've gotten back in touch, again, with shades of my former self. I have always been really, really into this sort of thing. I love design and layout. Thinking about it again, and for the first time ever in terms of a possible career path, takes me back to building and distributing table-based layouts on Expage for other aspiring 13-year-old web designers, to laying out pages for yearbook in high school, to designing grunge brushes in Photoshop to use for our literary magazine The Muse when Kelly and I were co-editors. I feel like the color of my parachute has been right under my nose, but somehow I've been so hung up on the writing thing that I've forgotten about this whole other huge part of what's sustained me so much throughout my life.

So, isn't it better that I spent those formative years from 18-21 immersed in education that helped me learn to think and explore - and now that I've had a few years to be in the so-called real world and figure out what aspects of different jobs I like and what aspects I really don't like, to be able to go back to school to pursue the thing I'm confident now I could be happy doing full time?

Honestly, my appreciation for school at this point is higher than it's ever been. At the end of Oberlin, I felt burnt out. Now, a few hours of classes at the end of a long work day feels like dessert. I'm giddy that I can justify spending my money on books that are going to help take me from where I am to where I want to be, career-wise. The fact that it's my own money I've saved up over the past year paying for these classes makes me value every second I get to be in the classroom, soaking up knowledge and tools and advice from my teachers.

Also, even though I'm now pulling 12-14 hour days four days a week, I have (or will soon have) something that I have never had in all my life in Seattle thus far: a weekend. It'll be a Friday-Saturday weekend, but nevertheless, generally speaking, two full days off every week that I can count on. The peace of mind of it is beyond thrilling.

So I found the handwritten notebook where I was keeping a journal of ideas when I first came up with the DMTM project. Amongst my plans for that are also several other interesting gleanings...mostly lists (generally not given in their entirety below...just excerpts.)

A list of things I wanted in my life at that point:
Better relationship with my parents
Get A's
A boyfriend

A list of tangible ways to go after those things:
Don't get mad over little things, try to see things from my parents' perspective, no yelling
Study groups, make outlines/flashcards, DON'T PROCRASTINATE!
Be more outgoing, hang out in groups, work on my sense of humor

A list of Likes: Doing makeup (ha), sleeping in, making websites, playing soccer, making collages, photography, being patriotic, chocolate ice cream with marshmallows, Harry Potter, connecting with nature, thinking, gel pens, happy people

A list of "Things That Suck": School, waking up early, smoking, math, regret, spinach, the smell of trash, death, liars, the color brown, Eminem, bad moods

I have to admit, that list cracks me up. My opinions, at least, on school, waking up early, math, spinach, the color brown, and even Eminem (such excellent running music) have all done a pretty serious 180 over the last decade...

A list of things I wanted to be able to buy: skateboard, belt, winter jacket, camera/film

And a list of ways to save more money: limit vending machine spending at school to $3/week, fewer snacks at the movies, bring lunch, remember that EVERY PENNY COUNTS!

Lists of good words: myriad, brazen, cascade, sagacious, illicit, atrocity, nuance, abyss, rhetorical, calamity

A list of things I missed when I was at Stanford (age 16): Sasha, my hermit crabs, my parents and friends, Luna Moonshine (my car), Eternal Sunshine (wasn't out on DVD yet...)

A list of things I wasn't missing when I was at Stanford: Humidity. (That's literally the only thing on that list.)

Lastly...I was able to actually track down the first "professional" website I ever made - where I designed layouts for other people and distributed them for free to my 5,000+ visitors - on, a website that has catalogued 150 billion current and expired webpages over the years. Mine is so embarrassingly bad and amateur on so many levels I won't link it here, but I will leave you with this fun tidbit: On my "About Me" page on that site, I had filled out a little meme that included the "Currently, I am listening to..." question. My response?

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians' "What I Am", which was playing on the local radio station at the moment I was making that webpage. Whew, bringing back the memories...


  1. This blog is awesome and 15-year-old lists are the best. I made them consciously knowing my older self would look at them later and giggle, I'm glad I wasn't the only one. I know exactly the feeling of being annoyed that college didn't lead immediately into an ideal career- and it's inspiring to see someone going through a similar thought process and making all the right changes. Good luck, the 12-14 hour days will be so worth it in the end :)