The Road So Far: Why CSI?

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It wasn’t a hard decision to continue with school. I was still only working part time and with financial aid I’d get paid to go. I ended up deciding to go to The College of Staten Island. The commute sucked, almost two hours, but it seemed like the right fit. The courses required for a communications degree looked interesting and I could choose journalism as a concentration. It’s also one of the few schools that has an actual campus. A feature that helped me to be more involved in the college experience. It wasn’t exactly one big party but I did end up spending more time outside of class with other students. It made it more enjoyable and I also stumbled into some writing and editing work.

Chilling on campus between classes.

Chilling on campus between classes.

A friend from class, Jay, wrote for the site concertconfessions.com. While it wasn’t a paying gig, there was the possibility of obtaining press passes and it was another way to gain more experience. By that time I was writing album reviews for a new music website, misformusic.com. I had also started to experiment with live concert photography and created a website, lastremains.net, to post the photos and music related writing. Jay helped convince me to sign up, arraigning for me to tag along to a Gwar concert.

While I was pretty excited about the school’s publications, clubs and radio station, I never found the time to get involved with any. I did end up working on a magazine started by a group of students. After reading the first issue I volunteered to copy edit articles. After a few issues I wanted to be more involved and expand my role. I suggested a music section that I could manage. While they already had somebody else working on the idea they said we could do it together. I got to work setting up interview pieces and recruited some new writers. Unfortunately, magazine never published any more issues.

To get my degree I had to do another internship. This time around I ended up at a marketing communications company on Staten Island. They designed websites, business cards, and other printed marketing stuff. I have to admit I don’t feel like I learned as much as I did at my first internship. I did gain more experience copywriting and picked up some new design tricks. Though I’ve probably forgotten them since I haven’t had much practice since. But it was a very interesting experience and I gained some new insights into marketing writing. Plus it lead to some paying work after I finished the internship.

I enjoyed the most of my time at CSI. I found a lot of the course material very interesting, especially the communication theories and media culture studies. I also met some really great people, students and professors included. Unfortunately, the last couple semesters got pretty tough, I was even tempted to quit at some points. I wasn’t enjoying the classes anymore and was worried about failing. Fortunately, my worries were for nothing and I graduated in January of 2013.

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The Road So Far: Keeping Busy

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Pretty soon after I started classes I ended up leaving my job at the bakery. There were a lot of changes in the business and I was forced to split my time between working in wholesale and retail at the Manhattan location. I was discouraged and unhappy with the situation. Deciding to move back into office work, I found a job in accounting for a restaurant chain and franchise company. I enjoyed the change and quickly took on more responsibility. The workload steadily increased and eventually it became too much to handle.

Next I found a job working two days a week for the nonprofit company Seedco. I started out doing data entry for one of their programs. Later I got the chance to help out with the program newsletter. I wrote and edited articles, then reformatted it from print to email.

While there I used the extra time to to do an internship. I found one assisting the editor of a website aimed at expecting and new parents. I wrote small pieces for the newsletter, proofread articles, assisted with the editorial calendar and did administrative work. The internship was unpaid but I was hired as a freelance writer for several articles published on the site. By then I had built up some momentum and was writing more regularly. I even tried sending out some work for contests and publication submissions.

I stayed at the internship from April until December of 2008. I felt I had gained enough experience there and couldn’t afford to work for free anymore. At that point I thought it would be a good idea to find ways to expand my experience and explore different areas and industries I was interested in. I joined the internet marketing team of band, volunteered for a film and arts festival, and attended a conference on working in the magazine industry. I also wrote published a story in a heavy metal themed horror anthology and began writing music reviews for a metal website.

When I got my degree that May, I started to even more actively search for a second or new full time job. I didn’t have much luck and even considered taking on another internship to beef up my resume. I eventually decided that I would continue with school, getting my Bachelors degree. If I went full time I would be eligible for full financial aid. Tuition would be paid with money left over for me to survive.

The Road So Far: Wasted Years

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When I was younger I didn’t really plan ahead long term. I did well in school each year to move up to the next grade and eventually go to college, get a degree and a good job. What college that should be and what job it might lead me to wasn’t something I thought too hard about. I imagined and day dreamed about different careers but it seemed so far off that I’d have plenty of time to plan for the future. I was also over confident that everything would just fall into place as they had in the past. I didn’t really put much effort into applying for college. I waited until the last minute to take the SAT’s, didn’t research many schools and didn’t visit any.

I stumbled upon DePaul University as part of a scholarship program I applied for. I wanted to go because of their communications and journalism program. I didn’t get the scholarship and ended up at SUNY Brockport. I was also accepted to Nazareth College but financial aid only covered half the tuition and boarding. I didn’t see anyway I could afford it and didn’t think it really mattered where I went anyway. I went mostly because I felt obligated. I didn’t think I’d learn anything useful, it was just a hurdle to getting a better job later on. My main motivation was to get away from home. I was very independent, wanted to get away and experience different places. I didn’t even look at any schools in New York City. I’m not sure if I would have gone to school right away if I stayed home. I was tired of learning in the classroom and more excited about hands on experience.

I admit part of me was trying to run away from a life that I was unhappy with. I thought maybe leaving home would change how I felt. It didn’t work, my heart wasn’t into school and it possibly made things worse. I ended my first year on academic probation because of my low grade point average. Having little else to do in the small college town I let myself get wrapped up in partying and enjoying the freedom of being away from home. I focused on enjoying the present instead planning for the future. When I returned to school in the fall things didn’t get much better. By October I realized I was wasting my time upstate and it would be my last semester there. I came home depressed and discouraged.  I owed the school my full tuition for the last semester because I never finished the financial aid paperwork and had bills I neglected to pay. Before I could think about planning for the future I had to get a job, any job in order pay my debt. I planned on going back to school after I payed off the debt and had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I still occasionally wrote but didn’t invest any real time, money or energy into writing. Instead I pushed it aside for later when the time was right.

So I’ve made a lot of mistakes, we all do, right? I would have made just as many no matter what I decided. So I would probably do it all the same if I had a chance to do it over. I may not have learned anything in classes but the experiences were well worth the time upstate. My writing career may have been stalled because of the lack of planning. Then again I’m not sure if I would have a writing career if things played out differently. I needed to make those mistakes and take some detours to realized what it is that I actually want. The only thing I regret is not making writing a priority in my life. I let it become something to do when I had the time, instead I should have been making the time. I got caught up living life and trivial little things seemed very important. I wasted many years because I forgot what was really important to me.

Physical and mental writing blocks

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I have a life pretty much filled with clutter. This is as much mental as it is physical. I have recently come to the realization that this clutter has become a hurtle to overcome when it comes to my writing. I’m sure some of this will sound familiar to others. Here’s a fun little list of things that stand in my way.

Physical clutter

  • Notebooks upon notebooks half full of writing, ideas and half done poems that I would love to be able to go through to get some inspiration.
  • Scraps of paper poem lines, short story ideas, scenes, and random dialog.
  • Folders full of school papers that should be edited to use for publication.
  • Then there are the piles of random other junk. At the moment my bedroom looks like a tornado just passed through.

Mental Clutter

  • First thing in the morning my mind get filled with the redundant task of everyday like, check email, shower, myspace, howework, work, etc.
  • In the back of my mind I’m always questioning how I’m going to get my bills paid.
  • Right after that I begin the worry of needing to find a decent paying job. Keeping in mind that I would like it to be a job that I actually like.

While all that runs through my mind I still have all the other worries that I’m pretty sure every other person in their 20’s has. I do have periods of time where I am able to push everything aside and get some writing done. But it seems to be getting harder and harder lately.

It would be great to hear if anybody else has these same issues. It would also be great to get some advice on how to deal with it.