Good advice

I think this is good advice, from Cary Tennis, naturally:

That is how you know you have attained your dream: It no longer seems like a dream at all.

Grad school in the recession? My experience

I have come across two interesting pieces that take entirely different perspectives about the question of whether to go to graduate school during the recession. The first is a blog entry by Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist, that says going to graduate school is not a smart way to dodge the recession because it saddles students with debt, immobility, and anxiety.

The second piece is a response from my favorite advice columnist, Cary Tennis, who advises a torn letter writer to go to graduate school and pursue his dreams instead of join the military and be useful. (One respondent humorously says, “Grad school has far more crazies than the military.”)

I am sympathetic to both Trunk’s and Tennis’s instincts, and I think maybe I can help, just a little, the torn graduate school applicant by offering some insight about my own experience in the M.S. program at Columbia School of Journalism. Please don’t take what I say as the gospel.

Sometimes I think that I may have jumped the gun and went to journalism school a little too soon, before I tried to pursue it on my own, but then I remember where I was last year: I knew I wanted to write for a career, but I didn’t know what or how, and I figured j-school would help me figure it out. At the time, I wasn’t even married to the idea of being a reporter.

I have gotten a much better sense of the type of reporting I like at Columbia. If I had forced myself to go to a daily in a part of the country or world that I wasn’t even that passionate about, I probably would not have found this. Instead, I would have been doing what I felt I was supposed to do to be successful in journalism, when I wasn’t even sure that is what I wanted.

That said, I have found that graduate school is not the best place to solve career and life uncertainty. I have had to really develop a strong sense of identity to fight against the stress and institutionalism that I can sometimes let get to me, and it is something that I may have done better had I given myself some time to just putz around or travel. Read more of this post

Why I love Cary Tennis

I am often noticing (and partaking in) the Internet’s corrosion of communication, reduced to writing in “lols” and “ur funny”s, but one beachhead in the field of spontaneous and meaningless words is Cary Tennis’s Since You Asked “advice” column on, not only because he goes beyond the trite “what you did is wrong. This is the proper rule” response of the typical advice writer but because, per the policy of Salon, readers also weigh in.  I also love that Cary shares, as he does with today’s letter, from a woman who has been hurt by a precarious relationship, how he relates, how the letter affects him personally:

Thank you for the bracing echo of toughness here — you offhandedly say the pain is now less a stabbing agony and more a dull ache you live with but can’t quite ignore, and although I ought not take pleasure in your suffering itself I take pleasure in the precision with which you render gradations of awfulness way outside the scale of day-to-day suffering.

This stuff is so good!!  We all relate!  And then the commenters offer up some goods of their own.

I missed the idea of the MF [motherf--er] and what I know about NPD [narcissistic personality disorder] is that it really was the idea.

Take a hard look at your life and see what needs to be changed. Don’t wait for the fairy Godmother to come back or cast someone else in that role. Say ‘Yes I can.” and make the changes you need to make.

It’s hard, it’s lonely, but in the end, learning to succeed, whether it’s at work, friends, or love is a very valuable life skill.

How less than often do these conversations take place in real life in our mire of small talk and superficial relationships and fears of “being vulnerable.”  How often have we scolded ourselves for letting our most intimate conversations take place through the faceless medium of the web?  And yet, the truth is, writing out one’s thoughts is a way of communicating sometimes so much more genuinely than the necessary spontaneity required of conversation.  Cary Tennis proves that the Internet is good for something!


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