The Graduate School Timeline; Or Things You Can Do for Half a Decade Post-College

This week marks a special and unique moment in my life plan. It is the last week before I start my last semester of the last time I will ever step into a classroom as a student. This, friends, is somewhat relieving/terrifying. And so, armed with two inarguably similar masters and nearly 4 and a half years of post-college education under my ever expanding belt, I will finally be doing what my father asked me to do at the all night party following my high school graduation: getting a job.

Contrary to my father’s belief, my twisted road through grad school hasn’t been entirely Ritalin and Merlot-fueled debates about Arthouse films I hadn’t seen, indie rock bands I tell people I saw several years ago but actually only recently downloaded, and ironic discussions of MTV reality shows. Sure, those things took up most of my time and energy, but there was also work. And education. And problems with my tuition checks. But before nostalgia completely creeps in and overwhelms me, and to honor the final time I get to ask someone where they are going for “Spring Break”, I will present a timeline of the highs and lows of my post-college grad school career, complete with occasional points of exclamation!  

Late August 2003: Attend graduate school orientation at Boston University’s School of Communication with friend/roommate Matt Herman, who is also attending the grad school for Advertising. Sit with several people during the “get to know you” lunch that I never, ever talk to nor see again.

Oct 2003: Write story about male friendships for Literary Journalism class that Professor calls “Esquire-esque”.

Nov 2003: Realize that calling something “Esquire-esque” doesn’t necessarily translate into “publishable in Esquire”.

Jan 2004: Get into class that works on “long narrative and investigative projects”. Decide to write about being in middle school by spending 4 months at my own former middle school. Work is considered ” kind of creepy” by my (ex)girlfriend.

March 2004: Spring Break!!!!

May 2004: Our class gets to present our work at a pitch meeting at Boston Magazine. So nervous I sweat through two shirts. Talk mostly about middle school slang. Swear three times and make several uncomfortable jokes in an attempt to fill dead air. Am convinced I will be kicked out of grad school. Post pitch meeting, get drunk.

May 2004: Surprisingly, find out Boston Magazine wants to buy my piece.
“Not so creepy anymore am I”, I exclaim repeatedly to ex-girlfriend while she is at work.
“Are you drunk at 1 pm on a Tuesday?” she asks. Silence ensues.

Sep 2004: First published work comes out in Boston Magazine! Bring it into class! Other kids think I’m showing off/rubbing it in their faces! In hindsight, huge mistake!

Oct 2004: First negative letter written about said work is forwarded to me by editorial assistant!!!

Dec 2004: Graduate from BU! Get diploma sent to me, rather than attend graduation ceremony. Family thanks me. Tell them I want to get an MFA in creative writing in lieu of working. Family no longer appreciative.

February 2005: Find acceptance letter from Emerson in stack of papers my mom was throwing out. “Oh, whoops,” she says.

March 2005: Spring Break!!! And rejection letter from Columbia. Call father.
“Well, Ivy League schools are hard to get into.”
“No, dad. This is Columbia College. In Chicago.”
“You’re making that up.”

September 2005: Orientation at Emerson! Take terrible ID picture. Sit with several people during the “get to know you” lunch that I will never, ever talk to again. And a kid from Ohio with a beard that I grudgingly become friends with.

Oct 2005: Realize Lit classes are harder than Journalism classes.

Dec 2005: Get grades. Ask friend if a “B” is good in a grad school class. Receive a “Are you f-ing seriously asking me that?” followed by extended laughter. Reply “no” meekly.  

Jan 2006: Take lighter workload, hoping it improves work ethic.

March 2006: Spring Break!!!

April 2006: Deem goal unreasonable and poorly thought out.

Sept 2006: Take Memoir writing class. Use material from first book. Don’t re-write. Sit back and wait for compliments.

Oct 2006: Chapters excoriated. Turns out, wasn’t all that good. Confidence, security and bladder control questioned.

Jan 2007: Take leave of absence for quarter life crisis style trip around Eastern Europe with the Big Cat. Eat a ton of kebabs.

March 2007: Spring Break!!!

April 2007: Come back refreshed, re-motivated and semi-addicted to whiskey. Also have beard. Writing has a new, sleek European feel.

June 2007: Lose European feel. And beard.

Sept 2007: Toy with graduating in the Winter, but decide against it for “sake of my book”.

Dec 2007: Get the “I feel like you’re never going to graduate and get a job, which is embarrassing considering you’re no longer on the sunny side of 25” speech from my father, hidden in a Christmas card!

Whew. Are blog entries even allowed to be this long? Don’t you feel like you just lived through the last half decade of my life? Anyway, I’m off to figure out how to dismantle Chapters 4-7 of my book and rewrite them so that they’re logical, well-written and don’t have several elaborate side plots about characters that no longer exist. You, friends, should try and stay out of the cold. Or if you live somewhere warm, where blizzards are merely names for elaborate ice cream treats from Dairy Queen… invite me over. I travel light, do dishes and only snore when I’m on my back. Think on it.



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11 thoughts on “The Graduate School Timeline; Or Things You Can Do for Half a Decade Post-College

  1. Genevieve Cancienne

    I noticed after I posted that thing that I mispelled "Kart" by spelling it correctly. It’s not because I’m old and unhip or anything, it’s just that since mispelling things has been in style for a bit (E-Z Serve, Krispy Kreme, etc.) I anticipate that the next trend will be spelling things correctly. Where we’re really going to have problems is when phat dudes suddenly become fat, and things like that.

    And about the weather, don’t worry. I’ll get my comeuppance in July when the heat and humidity will become sweltering, and walking out my front door will feel like I’m stepping into the inside of someone’s mouth. You might not like that comparison, but anyone who’s ever been here for any time other than Mardi Gras will agree. Tropical humidity is yucky stuff.

  2. Kristan C.

    Well, if it helps, you really did just talk me out of any future academic pursuits–at least those that cost somewhere between one’s life savings and the latest in the Bill Bryson lecture series. Consider this your good deed for the week.

    I was going to brag about the weather here, but it’s low-50s with an annoyingly killer wind, so I think Genevieve still wins.

  3. Kevin Alexander

    And Chad–since I know you work for Google and therefore have some sort of "control" over the Internet that you just aren’t telling us about, I’m going to tread lightly–but I too can’t wait for our 5 year!! I’m going to blow up a picture of us with our shirts off slaying brews when we were 21 and have it made into a mock turtleneck longsleeve shirt with the caption "Friendz+Brewz+Reunionz=Priceless". I plan on wearing it to all the formal events.

  4. Kevin Alexander

    Genevieve– The fact that you get cold below 75 degrees distresses me for a variety of reasons, most of them pertaining to jealousy. It’s so cold here right now that I’m thinking about purchasing one of those sleeping caps that you see Ebeneezer Scrooge wear in The Christmas Carol. And I love Mario Kart (Cart?)! Toad is definitely the fastest, plus he just seems so enthusiastic about the game and you have to respect that.

  5. To Cool For School

    Kevin, as a former college classmate of yours I feel jealous, hateful, concern, and that weird ‘proud to be your friend,’ all at once, after reading this entry.

    Can’t wait until our 5 yr reunion this summer. Everyone is going to be so proud of your "accomplishments."

  6. Genevieve Cancienne

    This was my favorite part, "Confidence, security and bladder control questioned."
    Congratulations on finishing up this semester! I thought seriously about grad school, but I think I’ll have to do it when my kids are in high school or something. It seems so stressful. In the meantime I’m enjoying writing the newsletter and press releases for the fire department (because those dudes are just fun), and coming home at the end of the day to play Mario Cart with my five year old. Then when my kids go to sleep I either stay up to write or play Mario Cart with my husband. It’s a good life. Sometimes I do mourn the going to grad school and touring Eastern Europe part of life that I skipped out on. Maybe I’ll sell my book and receive just enough money to do Europe and then crash a frat party instead. That’ll make up for it.
    Oh and about the cold, I’m from New Orleans so I think my definition of cold is possibly different from a Bostonian’s. I’m cold if it drops below 75 degrees.

  7. Kevin Alexander

    My backpacking-esque experience taught me that I dislike writing longhand. And that you should never spend 100 days with one person exclusively, especially if no one else around you is speaking English. Yes, even if you’re married.

    And Tom, the memoir-excoriation was well-deserved due to the poor quality of the work. And yes, there is something appealing about the group experience, especially when taking on something so solitary as writing. And yes, publishing makes you forget that you care about said group experience, but only momentarily. As for my unsolicited editorial opinion about MFA’s/Grad School, Etc: I only really recommend an MFA if you have interest in teaching or you see it as getting you to the next level in a career. If you just seek that group experience, taking a single workshop or getting involved in a writing group is much more prudent/pragmatic/intelligent. Either way, good luck!

  8. Tom

    I’m glad I only had to look up "excoriated" and not live through it. My condolences.

    Somehow, all of this is not making graduate school sound unappealing. Scary that. Maybe what I really want to do is just take one single creative writing class, or maybe I’m just missing the cameraderie of my dissolved writing group.

    I’ll bet if I got published I’d forget all this.


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