Labor Day Means School

For thirteen years, Labor Day meant packing all our possessions from our house in Long Island and making the trek back to the city to start school the next day. With the exception of last year. Last year it meant preparing for my internship at InkWell Management, trying to figure out something to wear that wasn’t too formal or too casual but still professional, and most of all, trying to figure out what my life was now that I wasn’t writing papers, going to class, and constantly working on piles of homework all the time.

Last fall, I went with a friend to hear a lecture at Columbia. Since it was still early September, and not all the summer heat had left the city yet, the lecture was held outside on Columbia’s main quad by the old library. After attending four years of school in rural Massachusetts, spending time at a college in the city was still a novelty to me. I am a city girl at heart, but living in dorms that look an awful lot like apartment buildings still seems strange to me. Anyway, while we were waiting for the lecture to start I remember looking around me and taking in the college life that I had recently left.

Off to the side, there was a girl taking notes from a Philosophy book. I remember being able to see her handwriting, and I have a strange fascination with handwriting (otherwise I would probably not be able to remember this). I remember looking at her and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m probably older than she is.” That was a scary thought. My next thought was, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have any homework to do.” Not in a my-professor-didn’t-assign-me-homework-this-weekend kind of way but in an I-don’t-have-a-professor-to-assign-me-homework kind of way. It was a strange realization.

If there was anything I had learned over the years, it was how to be a student. I could, and have, written papers till the cows come home, and I am an excellent note taker (must be my obsession with handwriting again). I knew how to get a good seat in the library during exam week, and that once you have it you do not give it up. I knew what time my friends and I all went to dinner (6 on the dot), and what table we always sat at in the dining hall (the one straight ahead in the corner). And I knew, after a while, not to get the chicken in the stir-fry for dinner. It wasn’t worth it.

But this past year I have learned a new set of skills. I have learned how to send out acceptance and rejection letters for an agency and how to critique a manuscript for an agent. (I was happy to find out that I, in fact, already knew how to critique a manuscript from my Creative Writing classes, and I have continued to do so as a freelance editor). I have learned how to answer a company phone, greet visitors, and use a Keurig machine. I have learned that when applying to jobs you often do send off your information into a dark abyss, and I have learned that you can network anywhere, oftentimes without meaning to. (The amount of people who I have met with from my church who work in publishing still astounds me.)

I have learned that I work better when I have a schedule of things to do – I knew that one already, but it was confirmed when I was just looking for a job after finishing at InkWell before I started freelancing. I have learned (and am still learning) how to be in charge of my own schedule and how to negotiate a price for my work. And I have learned how to communicate with clients when it comes to their manuscript (another skill I would like to thank my Creative Writing classes for. Yes, I am an English major – Creative Writing and Literature major specifically – whose job directly correlates with the classes I took in college. It can happen!)

I have also learned a lot from volunteering with FOCUS on a regular basis this past year as well, both in the office and with middle and high school students. FOCUS wasn’t as new to me as the post-grad life, which really helped to form my schedule and a home base this past year. I have also learned more about One Direction than I ever really thought I would, but hey, you never know when that will come in handy?

When I looked outside this morning the light seemed different to me. It looked flatter and more like fall. That might be because I know it’s September now (and am trying to ignore that fact), and that is changing my view, or it might be because it is actually September and that the light actually is different. Either way, pumpkin spice lattes are on sale at Starbucks and even though that is my favorite Starbucks drink I have yet to get one out of principle – it was still August when they started selling them. I’m sure I will cave soon. I am not quite ready for fall yet and I would be happy with another month of summer. Yes, I am in denial about fall, but I’m telling myself it is okay because I can still do work/be productive and be in denial. I guess that’s the beauty of not being on a school schedule.

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