20 May 2019

I can’t believe one year ago, my graduate school journey came to a close. Up until that point, I was used to grinding away at page counts, struggling through readings, and spent evenings walking through the Village where nightlife mingled with students toting backpacks under the light-polluted skies of New York City.

Up until that point, I worked so hard on a project that was uniquely my own. There were no tests or final exams. No, there were only hundreds of pages to scan, proof, and perfect until I made it to May 20th—the day where my achievements were first recognized.

Last year, I shuffled into my seat at the Beacon Theater in the Upper West Side. Students stood and scanned the crowd for classmates and parents, making their way to watch the ceremony. We were all packed tightly in the orchestra seats with their parents, loved ones, partners, siblings, and cousins all cheered on the graduates when it was their chance to take the stage.

The ornate decor of the hall glistened under the spotlights, while a sea of violet gowns and hats sat patiently beneath the stage because finally, it was our turn to be hooded. I left that stage with my white and black sash tugging on my neck while I sat back down at my seat, and finally, those two years were officially over.

There was a lot that I learned from my Master’s Program, one being that it doesn’t always get you the job that you may be searching for, well may just mine didn’t pave the clearest pathway. I remember during my first year when I was an intern for Barnes and Noble Corporate. Halfway through the program, Len Riggio, executive chairman of book store chain Barnes & Noble, invited us to the executive suite on the top floor for lunch and a brief Q&A session. I sat next to his grandson, a fellow intern, who he picked on quite frequently, as we ate grilled salmon, Rizzotto salad, sauteed broccolini, and fresh-baked cookies.

Regrettably, there weren’t many business questions that crossed my mind. I wasn’t in this internship to learn how to start my own bookstore or coin the term superstore none the less, but as the Q&A came to a close, he pulled out his roster and took one last glimpse over the names. “Hannah Conwell?” I looked up in his direction as I saw all other interns turn my way, “I see you are getting a Masters in Humanities and Social Thought…What does that mean? What do you want to do?”

I felt the nerves bubbling up in my throat as he continued with, “it’s kinda like Anthropology, what more can you do with Humanities degree except teaching?” What was I going to do with this degree? 

I talked with some school colleagues and, we all had this insecurity. If we weren’t immediately going into a Ph.D. program, then what would we end up finding? Would anyone know what it was that we studied? I had a dialogue with all of my graduate school careers. “Humanities and Social though, basically put, is that I have free reign over classes at NYU, but I need to be determined enough to work my way into the classes that lead that serves as research for my thesis.” What was my thesis? Well, I analyzed literature for mental health writings and used the epistolary form as an argument as the best way to educate readers on the grieving process. From there, by exploring crime novels through an epistolary lens, my project aims to investigate the intersectionality between the two genres and their character development. My project will entail a research portion in addition to a creative project. The research is where I will dive into psychological thrillers which discuss the tumultuous crimes committed by young adults through the narration of their parents.”

All of this research was became the background for my novel––which is among the proudest project I have completed thus far in my life. I still am working on editing the manuscript and still working on getting it to a place that makes me happy. At the one year marked, I wished I would be ready to share with agents, but given the time of today, I’ve wanted to hold back on pushing too hard.

Which brings me to the point, in this year, what have I learned since graduation?  It’s HARD to get a job in something you love. Careers in New York align closer with who you know when you apply, and what you can bring to the table. My Master’s allowed me more avenues, but also limited the jobs I looked at. Working in publishing meant having a Master’s made no difference in the job I was getting, I was going to start from the bottom. Sometimes that makes me sad. That I put myself further in debt for what?

But then I remember, without this program, I wouldn’t have been in New York. I wouldn’t have found myself in the Publishing world and would be somewhere else. I wouldn’t be working with the editors of some of my favorite novels, or on the frontline of what’s to come in the book industry. If I hadn’t moved to New York, I wouldn’t have had this fresh start with some of the best new friends I have ever met. I wouldn’t have the romance I have, and I would be somewhere else in this world entirely. I don’t know what that other life would have been like, but I know I am happy where I am one year since graduation!

New Year, New York

In case you missed it across your social media channels, newsstands, television, or ads,  its January 2, 2020 –– yes, a new year. But, I am sure it is impossible to miss the beginning of a new decade, so thus begins our daily struggle of writing 2019 on our homework assignments, journal entries, checks, and contracts and trying to scribble it out and make it look like it always said 2020

I have spent the most part of December 31st and January 1st listing my goals for 2020 because something I have learned in 2019 is that I love list almost as much as I love ticking off the boxes after I complete a task on said list. As each year passes, I learn more and more about my personality and I will always appreciate that growth. It’s the little character-building experiments that I have encountered in the last year, in the last decade, and the last twenty years that have shaped and molded me into the person I am on January 2, 2020. I won’t ever take that for granted as I look to the future. 

Right now, I’ll be cliché and say that this year will bring a “new me.” In the coming days, I will turn 25, so yes, I will be a completely different person no longer in her early twenties, but rather mid-twenties. But I have experienced some incredible highs and the deepest lows in 2019, and like 2018, I am leaving the hardships, anger, sadness, and grief in 2019 and doing everything I can to begin the new year in New York on a decisive lead –– forming a new outlook on what is to come.

There are many goals this year that “2019 Hannah” would never expect to see, one being that nearly 8 months after graduating my Master’s Degree from NYU, I am still finessing job boards, LinkedIn postings, and emailing everyone I have ever known as I look for more jobs to throw my resume at. The destitution, depression, and distress that comes hand-and-hand with being a tennant in New York City looking for work can be soul-crushing and leave you in a state of desperation. And instead of hanging my head the way Hannah 2019 did in June, July, August, etc. I am going to try and be a new me for Hannah 2021’s sake.

I don’t want to see a repeat of goals from 2019 and 2020 repeat on 2021’s list. I want to check off all my boxes this year, and “2019 Hannah” never pushed herself to do that until October. Until I sat down and said “enough,” and at that moment is when I was given an opportunity, and it taught me more than any goal in the past it. takes. more. than. effort.

I can’t just wish these goals into the universe and expect them to come back to me complete. I can’t work on my dreams for part of the day and spend the rest of my time watching others complete theirs. I won’t. Starting here with this blog. I can write my goals into existence, but it’s going to take more than effort to combat any lackadaisical “I’ll do it some other day” to manifest the goals that are sealed off for a 12/31/2020 due date. It was in 2019 that I formulated plans, found my interests, and began on the trail that leads me to 2020 with the desire to do better for my past self and future me.

With that in mind, I thought I would share the twelve main goals I have for 2020:

  1. Pitch Open When.
  2. Take a Mini-monthly Trip.
  3. Preform a Digital/Social Media Cleanse.
  4. Journal and Write Daily.
  5. Get Life Organized.
  6. Read More Purposefully.
  7. Learn A New Skill.
  8. Relaunch Blog.
  9. Organize Finances.
  10. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle.
  11. Write a New Book.
  12. Plan my Career Path.*

While I have all of that ahead of me in the coming year, I am looking forward to sharing my progress on my blog, because the lingering goal that hangs over all of these goals is documentation –– I want to remember.

There is nothing wrong with “2019 Hannah”, thats not why I am here saying I am looking forward to a “new me”. Sure, old Hannah could have used a kick in the butt, but she was busy this past decade moving to four different cities, earning four different degrees, experiencing new cultures, falling in love, learning about heartache, and surviving –– what more could you expect out of her? 

Because all of that and more has happened in the past decade, I know there is going to be so much to experience in the next ten years, so what better time than starting to really focus in on the things that matter most and begin checking the boxes off one by one! So, goal number 8, let’s get this thing going.

*If you want to ever read more about how I have broken these goals down into smaller projects, daily habits, and weekly and monthly goals, I would be happy to share that with you on another post!

 

Finding Your Light: The Action

A while back I started a series I never followed through with, until today, of course. I talked a little bit about the self-doubt I had been feeling at the time and how it had surpassed a similar doubt I had a few years prior to then. I described the way it flooded my bloodstream with toxic feelings at such force, and I wanted to talk about how I was combating the negative energy. Partially because I wanted to feel strong.

I mentioned that I was starting this multi-part series to invite others to gain insight towards mental health by providing personal experiences that I hoped, in turn, would promote more people to gain an understanding of the significance of mental health. I wanted to make sure individuals knew that you are not alone, there are so many resources out there to better yourself. 

Not too many knew that in 2017, I became crippled under the weight of fear and ached every time I tried to pull myself back up. So I wasn’t heading my own advice, I was isolating myself. I struggled, still struggle, daily with the events surrounding the changes in my life, but the struggle I initially wrote about is gone.

When I first wrote Finding Your Light: The Onset I had no idea what was to come within the next month –– the hole I found myself in July 2018 was a pothole compared to the fault line that eroded my sanity come August 2018. But, I wasn’t wrong in July to discuss my hard times, but what I should have done was listen to my own advice.

When I was at my darkest time, I wrote only one post, and you can feel the pain seeping through the words. I remember having a friend reach out to me the day I posted it. They had read it and wondered if I needed anyone to talk to, but I shook off my issues. I didn’t take my advice to not let the demon consume my happiness, but instead I allowed him thrive in for way too long.

Because of that, my light shattered more, but that seemed impossible. What happens when you drop an already broken piece of glass?  It explodes into more and more fine and fragmented pieces that I, in turn, amounted myself to because I felt like I was a fine mist of dust allowing something invisible to the eye, something such as wind, to take control.

I was sick, mentally and physically, but weakened to nothing past a sleeping vessel that struggled to ever feel rested. I abused myself and my health, and I let insignificant people define my worth. I let depression linger behind my sullen, hazel eyes that were tinged red from the evenings spent overthinking and manifesting fear. 

But I took action, finally, because I needed conversation. I needed a distant bystander who could talk to me and listen. It helped to see a therapist for a few weeks until she tried to take control of the therapy session. I wanted to talk about the flames because I needed help putting them out, but she was too busy trying to forge through the ashes that were lying where objects once were. The dust wasn’t me, but the wind oxygenating the flickering flame emitted an unbearable flame.

The conversations for awhile validated me. They told me the pain wasn’t insanity, and that I could find something better. It reminded me about who I was when I was younger. I knew I struggled with self-confidence. It was almost typical for me to feel down about myself. I had a great friend group, a supportive family, and a bright future, so why was I manifesting on this low time when I should be thankful for all the highs?

The second the therapy would no longer help, was when I gained the confidence back in myself to really believe in who I was and the journey I was on. I was a grad student, thriving in class, and making friendships that were going to matter. Hell Yeah, Hannah, keep kicking butt! I was writing again, for schoolwork, but I was creative again.

But being thankful wasn’t enough because I was still grateful for a handful of the wrong things. I was thankful for toxic relationships, honestly up until the end of 2018. I couldn’t hold on to those people, and I needed to learn to let go. I was thankful for my freedom, both financially and parentally, but I wasn’t following a life destined to be thankful for.

Sometimes I think back to what fun I used to have with some people in the East Village, but leaving it all behind showed me how to bring the happiness back. I wrote a bit about that journey in Relationships After Heartache when I referred to the saga as the “August downfall.” But I learned in isolation I could focus on myself. I wasn’t worried about saying the right thing to someone, striking up the best conversation, or ordering my favorite drink. I wasn’t concerned with making an impression, telling the funniest joke, and worrying about what my friends were saying behind my back. I just was me, alone in my apartment, crying when I needed to but mostly doing the things that strengthened me.

The reason this time was different was because of the way the negative thoughts strained me into a thick pulp without any sustenance. Sometimes I still struggle to let go of the toxic relationships, hoping they just lie in a grave, so I don’t have to deal with goodbyes, but I have learned how to walk away. Because walking away from the sadness was the one thing that brought happiness back?

My sadness in July? I buried it in 2017, looking my anxiety and depression, literally in the eye and forgiving the demon forever reintroducing it in my life. I told him that I am no longer mad, and that is why this time was different. The past showed me that I can stand up and turn away from something I don’t want to be apart of, and I think so many of us can struggle with that part.

I think we worry about the action when it comes to rekindling our light. We fear that it won’t fix anything, but this time was different because I reignited my light in the most mature way compared to the past. I learned I could find even more strength if I just gave myself a chance, so give yourself a chance.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, I urge more to feel comfortable asking for help. Bearing the weight of your friends in times of need is not meant for everyone. If you are in a space in your life where you can be there for others, I hope you utilize your gift as I have in the past. If you personally cannot handle that role, help yourself, and help others to seek personal help. There is nothing shameful for wanting help. Hug more and remind those in your life that you love them, it will make a significant impact on your well being.

 

 

Excitement with August

Let’s go back to August 1997. I’m two, strawberry-blonde, and sporting baby tooth smile. I’m headed off to pre-school this year, the first time that I can remember being away from my home and family for more than a few hours. I’m enrolled in Miss. Robbin’s class at The Caring Place, or under its new name, the Village School.

I don’t remember my first day past vaguely gripping my mother’s legs until a strange woman coaxed me into this colorful room full of chairs that were my size and children that were my age. However, as my mother recalls, I kinda waltzed in, established myself as a classmate, and became the one everyone wanted to play with.   58639045142__3F178EB1-314C-4507-BB84-67B634579505

Eventually, I got used to the routine of mid-afternoon naps with other kids, Spanish and English lessons, and recess. When I think back to my time at The Caring Place, I have a few very distinct memories. I remember our Halloween party, scooter/bike day, and our aquarium themed performance. I remember going to the big school next door, Sea Gate Elementary School, and playing on their playground which had my favorite recess activity––the swings. I remember the second year of pre-school better than the first. I’m not sure if it was Miss. Misty’s doing (my second pre-school teacher) or whether my mind and memory were developing more, but she threw a wild St. Patrick’s Day party that will always stay with me. Picture your teacher trashing your classroom with chairs thrown about the room, tables upside down, and glitter everywhere as the students are tasked with making “leprechaun traps” that were made out of decorated shoe boxes propped up with sticks as lucky charms were strewn about underneath. 

However, 1997 was technically my first “back-to-school” season, so here I am in 2019 realizing I won’t be going back-to-school this 2019-2020 school year and I won’t again for the foreseeable future.

 

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My first “school photo”

 

That thought, feeling, the idea is strange. Not being a student is foreign to me in all sense of the word. I hit the month of August and the first thing I think about is going back to school, hell even my partner brought up that he received his tuition bill yesterday. Even when I graduated early from my undergrad, and lived at home for a fraction of the 2016-2017 school year, that Fall I was taking courses at the local education center and applying to grad school.

I think the “strange” realization ruminated in my mind somewhere between May and July. It was the May when I graduated and had the first thought of “it’s over.” That then manifested in my subconscious until my inbox received it’s first “back-to-school email” of the 2019 season in July —it was then that I realized just how strange it is to be done.

Most people can’t wait to be done with school, and I feel that on lots of different levels too, but at the same time, I love it. I love going and learning more about the subjects I find interesting and being in a classroom with my peers. I love the consistency of a schedule and packing my backpack with books, notebooks, freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils, and Sharpie fine point, felt pens. I didn’t love the tests and the books I was forced to read. I didn’t love the six am wake up calls and final papers. There were the downfalls that came with “I don’t want to get up” that every student experiences, but at the end of the year, when summer came, I was always excited for August. Always until now. 

When I first started applying to jobs after my graduation, I saw an ad for a masters program that was offered online for mental health counseling. I was job hunting for all of 2 minutes before I saw the ad and considered going back to school for yet another degree. In my mind, my “forever-student” mentality is the reason I am facing a crippling amount of debt. I think this “strange” feeling stems from being worried about not being as successful as I aspire to be, but it also glosses over what it is I owe because of school.

It is coming down to understanding how attending school became my crutch but manifesting the fear into subconsciously putting off getting a job does nothing for where I want to be in the future. Because when it comes down to it, I’m scared to not be in school because I don’t know what is to come when I am no longer “a student.” 

It’s August, the 2nd of August to be exact, and as I apply to more jobs that I can’t fathom doing means I am missing the idea of going back to school in the coming weeks. As I interview for jobs I start missing the tests, final papers, and book reports. I miss picking out my first-day outfit and going to Target with my mom for new school supplies.

I want to have the structure and rigidity of a “classroom” and “schedule” in my next life after school but I can’t seem to find the right match. All of this stress of finding work is making me miss my yearly “first-day” photos at the front door. I feel like there is so much more to learn from the world, but I worry about the jobs I am applying to what teach me what I want and need to learn. I am looking for the balance, but I haven’t found it yet, and I am nervous I won’t find it. So happy August everyone, I know good things will come, so I am trying to be as patient as I was in middle school when I was “so over these first day photos.”

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My first, first-day photo

 

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My last, first-day photo. 

 

 

Life as a Master

If money wasn’t an issue, where would I be? 

For months now, I’ve been planning the reboot of my blog. I thought about what I’d write after spending the past months writing my own novel. And any day I became excited about starting over, letting go of my previous dreams and really pushing the other ones I was dreaming up, but I froze. I thought about blog ideas, hundreds of them, but never followed through with a single one.

I looked at my blog nearly every day as I applied to more and more jobs, saying I had blogging experience, which is true, but felt like I had abandoned the first platform I had to produce work I was proud of.

Until the other day while I sat in Central Park in complete isolation. For 30 minutes, only a mother and daughter passed my area, but they turned and walked deeper into the brush. Across the way, I would see tanned faces and colorful shirts flick through the leaves on the sidewalk parallel to the one I rested my feet on, but no one seemed to ever find their way towards me.

I had needed a break that day. I had spent the most part of that afternoon sulking in my jobless stupor, putting myself in a box of being too tired of not having a job, but not working hard enough on trying to fix it. For the first month outside of my grad school graduation, I applied to a few, putting myself out there and looking for something new. The next month I was shooting blanks out into the universe. Applying to jobs I’m overqualified for, attending cold-call interviews, and being unhappy with the results I was staring down.

Except for one; I had a phone interview with a company and job I was perfect for, however, they picked someone else before I even had a shot at interviewing. I was sad, hopeless, and trying to ground myself in some mentality that was telling me I was no good for any job apparently.

The position was an editorial assistant for the psychology and humanities department at a publishing house. If you don’t know, I have my bachelors in psychology, and I just received my Masters in Humanities. For the job, all you needed was a bachelors degree and Microsoft experience— how could I not be a shoo-in for the position? I’ve gone beyond and received my masters, I wrote a book for my thesis, have experience in the editorial world and book industry, yet there I was on Friday receiving an email saying they went with someone else.

So that day, in the thick brush of Central Park, turned to my bench and noticed the plaque behind me. It was a poetic verse: welcoming the world to sit for a moment, enjoy the serenity in the quietness of the breeze, and look for the light.

How sweet it was to sit somewhere and take a moment to forget my stress. Then I thought, what a great memory to purchase. I wondered what it would be like to have a bench here and commemorate my time here. I thought about the unveiling of it, bring my lover, and family to sit and enjoy a space I loved to enjoy. Would I put it near the Zoo? Somewhere I loved to people watch. Or would I put it by the Great Lawn, the area I first found the confidence to run again after my ankle surgery? I know, I would put it in the brush, tucked away for only a few to find, but me to know exactly where it was when I needed quiet time.

Would I follow in the footsteps of this mystery person and write something poetic about nature, or would I devote it to something I loved? I started fantasizing about what I would put it as The Adopt-A-Bench program loaded. Then I realized a bench plaque would set me back 10,000 dollars. As someone hiding out in Central Park trying to avoid my fears of not making enough money in this city, I was sitting on a bench that someone felt comfortable in their income to give more of it away; a lot more.

At first, I was sad. I was immediately reminded that I couldn’t donate a chair unless I score a book advance significant enough to pay off my student loans, supply me with rent, and living wage so I could then afford a silver plaque for people to either admire or never even read–– I’d say a million would be reasonable. I was sad but then thankful to be somewhere that made me happy if it wasn’t for the money.

It had been a while when I last thought about being happy where I was. I remember feeling so uncomfortable in New York when I first moved here. By recognizing that it showed me that my experience in this city is continually evolving. I was happy enough, even in the stress of a job hunt, to commemorate my time here. That was something I never sat and thought about during all of my anxiety.

I spent so much time for so long thinking I didn’t belong; that it was time to move on to another place for another part of my journey. I can write this post and not be sad because I have found a way to make money and have interviews for more job, and even though my hunt is not over, I still am trying; I am always hopeful the situation will turn around. It has taken a moment to remember where I started in New York. I was reminded that at times, I may feel stressed as I try to keep up with the fun and work of the city. But had you asked the Hannah that moved here roughly two years ago if she even considered buying a plaque in Central Park to commemorate her time, she would have said “no way” this place doesn’t deserve it.

Let’s see what “author Hannah” has to say when shes sitting on a couple book deals and a film request (:

Also if you are looking to hire for a position, I am totally available to start ASAP!