Sunday, April 17, 2011

Once Upon a Time...

I wanted to be a writer.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a lot of things. Moving from earliest memory to latest memory I have wanted to be a cartoonist (my drawing skills didn’t progress after 2nd grade and I lost hope), an astronaut (then I started to get motion sick very easily), a veterinarian (then I started to faint), a robber baron circa 1890, a corporate lawyer, an editor, came back to veterinarian for awhile (because I could work through fainting), then settled on zoo keeper.
With weeks (weeks!) until graduation, I’m staring down unemployment and student loans and hoping something comes up. A fun exercise during loan exit interviews is creating a budget for yourself, so you can see how much money you’ll need to survive once you graduate. That exercise is enough to crush dreams. It’s a nice reality check, but it absolutely destroys hope, especially for those of us still searching for employment.
I have applied to jobs at about 15 zoos around the country–because I settled on zoo keeper–and I have gotten nothing positive from those many, many resumes and cover letters. Except a lot of practice at writing cover letters. I finally applied to an internship at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans and got an interview–results still pending–but it’s unpaid and unpaid is scary. I love zoos. I love animals. I love being close to animals and working with them, developing relationships and overcoming the inherent communication barrier. It’s an extremely rewarding experience. I love it more than I love most things. But entry level positions pay so very, very little. And internships pay so very, very nothing at all. The wage of a newbie keeper does not come out equaling my minimum-to-live total from that oh-so-enlightening budget exercise my loan interview had me do.
Important note: I am quite tenacious and believe 100% that people should do the thing they love most. This is what I love most. I want to work outside, tire myself out every day, and be happy, above all else. So I am not abandoning this zoo keeping thing, but I may have to shelve it for a little while.
And that leads to the next bit: what on earth does one do for a steady, healthy income after college?
I have no idea.
But I’m working on it. Looking at editing jobs! How novel, to think I could use my English major for something. I found myself in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago (by “found myself” I mean “deliberately went to spend 4+ hours”) and while sitting on the floor with my laptop open searching for books on Civil War topics that I might want to read, I thought, “I wish someone could just pay me to read and be around books all day.” So a-editing I will (hopefully) go.
(Okay, okay, side story: I have recently discovered that the best way to motivate myself to write an essay I find miserable is to go to B&N and sit at a table and write. I give myself a deadline and if I finish my work before that time, I get a book as a reward. It works quite well, until I try to negotiate what “one book” really means. Because if I wanted to buy one hardcover book I could spend $30, but if I wanted a mass market paperback it might only be $8, so if I want two or three mass markets that could really be just the same as one book. Needless to say, I usually end up with two or three books. And then I have to decidewhich books; the whole process can take hours.)
In the meantime, this is my writing practice. And a chronicle of what I want to do and what I end up doing. And what I figure out along the way. Hooray, personal growth!
In other news, our heater is broken and gets stuck on until we call maintenance, and then stuck off when they leave. It was stuck on for awhile and then it was 77 degrees outside and we thought we might suffocate. Maintenance finally showed up to turn our heat off and now the forecast is 45 and wet for the next week. So! Being the kind of person I am–inquisitive, resourceful, and of hearty peasant stock–I decided if maintenance could fix it, I could certainly fix it. I tore the cover off the heater, tore my knuckle open, fiddled with anything I could find to fiddle with, wrangled the cover back on, and did not fix the heat. But it makes noises like it’s trying to turn on and off, and I’ll count that as progress.
The things I learned today: heaters shouldn’t be messed with, eels have poisonous blood!, and it is impossible to trust any GPS system.

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