Heather K. Smith, This is Your Life!

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Grad School: A Survival Guide

Published May 14, 2012 by heatherksmith

So, I promised a year ago that I would start blogging again.  The Grad School Gods disagreed. So, this has actually started to become more of a yearly blog as opposed to weekly, monthly or daily.

Well, I’m hoping that is going to change.  I’ve finished all of my graduate courses, and am now only working on my thesis (please don’t take the “only” in that sentence too literally).

While my spare time is still sparse, I’m hoping to be an active member of the blogosphere once again.  And to reinstate my blogging license, I would like to offer all of you my fool-proof steps to surviving grad school as a full-time young professional.

That’s right, I was taking full-time grad classes, along with a full-time career.  What I wasn’t doing full-time was sleeping.

Anyway, my  Five Fool-Proof  Steps to Survive Grad School

  1. Start a caffeine addiction:
    Starbucks, the cup of joe at the office and the occasional soda should saturate your day. I know after your 10-hour day, you probably did homework until 1AM. How else are you going to make it through the day today without face planting on your desk and being shook awake in a puddle of drool by your boss? It’s 2012 everyone expects you to have some sort of addiction anyway. Just ask TLC.
  2. Sleep, Just Say No:
    You know that saying “you can sleep when you’re dead”? Live by it. There is no way you’re going to finish 2 literature reviews and do three chapters of reading by sleeping 8-10 hours every night.  Who needs sleep anyway? We have caffeine to counteract it (please refer to Step 1).
  3. Date Someone and Have Friends Just as Busy:
    Your boyfriend/girlfriend and friends aren’t going to get irritated with you ditching because you have a paper due or hanging out with them with homework in hand if they have an equally hectic schedule. This just means you’re all boring.  That’s ok, you’re also smart. Keep telling yourselves that.
  4. Let Yourself Go A Little:
    I always like to have my hair and make up done my first few days of class. This is just for proof that I can look attractive. It’s all down hill from there. By cutting out primp time in the morning, you’ll get in another hour of sleep (Refer back to steps 1 & 2, I know you’re already lacking in this area). Be prepared for people telling you that you look tired, which they may as well be telling you that you look like crap. Just remember, you ARE tired! And you’re also going places in life.
  5. Wine-based Study Groups:
    My friends can agree, cramming for a test is always better together, and it’s even better with a box of Franzia. Don’t laugh at this, my friends and I all pulled A’s in the most difficult class in the department. For this, I thank you Franzia.
Ok, so the above steps are a little ridiculous, even though I did follow them to some extent. (Or to a full extent).  But here is my one true and probably only healthy tip:
Friday Night=Fun Night: Feel free to switch Friday with Saturday. So you’re not sleeping much, you’re hyped up on caffeine, and possibly more stressed than you’ve ever been. TAKE A BREAK!  You will begin to hate your life if all you do is study and work.  A night of doing nothing is completely necessary and OK! You got into grad school, you’re passing your classes, you’re going to eventually get your Masters Degree even if you do take the night off.
Well, I’m off to bed. I’ve got a full day of work tomorrow and a night of editing a thesis proposal. Doesn’t sound fun to you? Well, it does to me. I guess that’s another tip I have for you. No matter how tired or stressed you might be, if you truly love your job and you picked a Master’s that fits your passion, you’re really not going to mind getting out of bed everyday to a full day’s work and full night’s study.
Good night, I’ll see you at the Starbucks drive thru tomorrow.
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Long Time, No Post

Published April 22, 2011 by heatherksmith

It is official…I’m that horrible example of how NOT to use social media. Well, at least in one aspect: No regular updates.

Who would have thought full time work and a full class load as a grad student would take away from my time to blog? I’ve missed my time typing about my random thoughts and experiences. I’m sure some of you (and by this I refer mainly to my brother and mom) have missed it, too.

Anyway…Expect to see more posts soon. However, due to my severe case of nerdom and regular tendency to fill almost every hour of my day with some sort of responsibility, I make no promises on frequency.

Until later,

Heather

The New Beginning

Published September 12, 2010 by heatherksmith

It’s official. I’m no longer a VISTA. Even though I’m happy to say bon voyage to food stamps and living below the poverty line, I loved the experience and highly recommend it. You’ll see me volunteering again soon.

Life changed drastically since my last post. I left the desert and set up camp in the Rockies. I start graduate courses at the University of Denver on Monday and start a new job about a week later. Not only that, but I finally have wheels again (on a car that is, not my bike). No more five-mile pedals to work in 100 degree weather.

So, once again, new place, new people, new life. I’m excited to see how it all works out.

I’d Like to Leave a Message for Karma, Please

Published July 12, 2010 by heatherksmith

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted. But believe me, I have good reason to have neglected so long. Here are my latest adventures from living below the poverty line.

Health Coverage Shenanigans: Being below the poverty line qualifies me for state health care. When I first moved here, I still had my regular insurance, which ended coverage in December. In November, I went to the doctor and presented both my insurance and state health care. My regular insurance covered part of my cost. Turns out the doctor office never turned the rest into my state health care. For over 8 months, I’ve been on the phone with the doctor’s office and the state health care office to cover the  remaining $130. Perpetual phone tag. Sigh.

Kitchen Knives and T-Shirts: I found quite the surprise in the front yard. No, it wasn’t that pony I’ve been asking my mother for since elementary school. It was an 8-inch, non-serrated kitchen knife wrapped in a men’s T-shirt. The police tried to convince me someone just used the deadly piece of steel to drywall. If only I were naive. I would have been able to sleep for the next 2 weeks.

What’s Worse Than Living in a House with Mystery Knives? Being Kicked Out of It!: I recently learned the importance of leases. The last 3 years, the tenants in the house had lived under a ‘gentleman’s agreement.’ No lease, no deposit. Wow! What a great deal, right? Well, two of the four of us moved, and the landlord started to lose money. Gentleman’s agreement off. The remaining roomie and I almost got put up in the Budget Suites, known for meth labs and the occasional prostitute.  Luckily, things worked out and we ended up getting to stay in the house.

The Perpetually Immobile Monte Carlo: Eight months later and the transmission angels still haven’t decided to bless my car. You know, the same car that suffered a smashed driver-side window. I don’t usually mind the daily pedal, but the infamous Phoenix heat has arrived. Over 100 degrees with no breeze (Unless it feels like a blow dryer).  It’s like a steam room, but not near as relaxing.

Life has been chaotic. But what my VISTA service has taught me is that it could be worse. Doctor bills give me slight migraines, but at least I was able to get check out. Even though the lawn seems to grow blades of steel instead of grass and ‘gentleman’s agreements’ aren’t so gentle in the end, I still have a roof to sleep under.  If all else failed, I could have camped out in my broken-down car. That’s more than some people will ever have.

I think karma is kicking in. After all, I haven’t found any weapons in the yard lately! I’ll let you know how things turn out.

Hello, I’m Gen Y

Published February 22, 2010 by heatherksmith

I’m part of Generation Y, but I didn’t know until I joined the workforce. The Gen Y kids have apparently caused quite the stir in the office. I’ve learned plenty about ‘myself’ over the past few months. Even though I fit into the age range, I definitely don’t fit all the stereotypes. So, I’d like to clear a few things up.

Just because I use an iPod, laptop, and Blackberry doesn’t mean I can fix all your IT problems. Trust me, I wish I could. But leave that to the experts of the IT department.

No, I do not feel ‘entitled’ to that corner office and six-figure salary. My parents taught me nothing comes without hard work and dedication. I’m very well aware that just because I have a degree, doesn’t mean I’m going to have a career handed to me. I need experience, and that comes from working from the bottom up.

I will not scoff at workplace policy. I won’t wear flip-flops, mini skirts, or holey jeans to the office. I’m also not going to call in ‘sick’ because I’m hung over or don’t feel like working. Oh, and be assured you won’t find any incriminating photos on my Facebook Page.

I’m not perfect and have plenty to learn. But please remember I am me, not just another Gen Y kid.

The Answer

Published February 6, 2010 by heatherksmith

Not one of my usual posts, but this song kinda hit me. Amazing how you can relate to some things, isn’t it?

Automatic Loveletter, The Answer

From ocean to sky
Summer and fall
I have been there though it all
From laughing and crying
To pain that comes easy
From shades of gray meaning
That turn out so sweetly
I wonder when
I wonder what I’ll find…

I look up to the sun
It only hurts my eyes
Maybe it’s the answer
I’ve been wanting in disguise
The more you are with me
The more that I’m alone
I don’t need the answer I already know

Subtle and grace
Desperate for change
My hand moves away
Melt dry eyes for days
Something’s not right
Smiles and tantrums
Hit the ground running
It’s all over and been done
I wonder when
I wonder I’ll find…

I look up to the sun
It only hurts my eyes
Maybe it’s the answer
I’ve been wanting in disguise
The more you are with me
The more that I’m alone
I don’t need the answer I already know

What happens next?
We’ll stop and go
The promise has already run cold
So now you know
So now you know

I look up to the sun
It only hurts my eyes
Maybe it’s the answer
I’ve been wanting in disguise
The more you are with me
The more that I’m alone
I don’t need the answer
The answer

I look up to the sun
It only hurts my eyes
Maybe it’s the answer
I’ve been wanting in disguise
The more you are with me
The more that I’m alone
I don’t need the answer I already know

A Message from a Small Town Girl

Published January 16, 2010 by heatherksmith

I graduated from a class of 26. My hometown had a population of 1,200. My mother and my best friend spent their days of elementary school in a one-room country school.

There was no mall, not even a Wal-Mart, for 45 miles. There were no stop lights. I often passed tractors on the highway during the summer.

I’m from South Dakota, and to quote Journey, “I’m just a small town girl.”

And defensive about it when I need to be.

I love travelling; near, far, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been lucky enough to visit cities like San Diego and New York City (Might I say, the San Diego Zoo and Broadway, two of my favorite memories). I’ve been an exchange student in Japan and Mexico, spent a summer interning in Minneapolis, and if you haven’t caught on from the rest of my blog entries, I’m now living in Phoenix and serving a year with the AmeriCorps VISTA.

It seems that no matter where I go, once I utter the phrase, “I’m from South Dakota,” there’s always someone who does it.  Wondering what ‘it’ is? Here are some examples:

“You’re from South Dakota? I’ve heard that everybody hates it there and is trying to get out.”
“Most of the rednecks must be congregated in the small towns.”
“Do you live on a farm? hahah! Do you have cows? hahaha”

These are all things directly said to my face. To clear a few things up, no, most of the people living in SD are perfectly content (Otherwise, they’d move), there are no colonies of rednecks and I am not from a farm, but quite a bit of my friends and family are, and they’re some of the hardest working and succesful people you’ll meet.

Don’t think its only absurd questions.  From my time as an exchange student, I’ve had plenty assumptions made about me and my education by other US students. Apparently, it’s not ‘cool’ to be from a small town, and even though I was in college, it wasn’t worth much, being from South Dakota and all. I guess  Tom Brokaw missed that memo. There were other exchange kids from towns my size, but oddly tried to avoid mentioning it and distanced themselves from me when they found out my small-town roots.

Oh, and the third comment about the ‘farm and the cows,’ came from fellow South Dakotans! Another pet peeve of mine is people saying ‘it’s different when you live in Rapid City or Sioux Falls.’ No, that is also South Dakota, and just because those places are more populated, it doesn’t make it better than the rest of the state.  My home town was founded by the railroad in the 1800’s. The area is filled with farms, some of which have been in families for generations. The area has always had a small population, not because there’s something wrong with it, but because that’s the way it’s always been. Ask most of the people who live in the area, and they’ll probably tell you they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Quite honestly, it makes me sad that some people are so naïve and uneducated that they would make those assumptions. (Sometimes the assumptions do give me a good laugh though. Check out Texts from Last Night).  Back on subject, I feel sorry for anyone that is embarassed to say they’re from a small town. If anything, its something unique, BE PROUD!

I will admit that this is a two-way road. I won’t deny feeling a bit scared my first time in New York City that I might get mugged, and I have jumped the gun on assuming that some urbanites I’ve met were just bound to be elitists who’ve probably never seen a real hard day’s work before. Perhaps, sometimes, I can be a little bit of a ‘ruralist.’

I must also say, I’ve heard a good share of positive stereotypes about my midwestern upbringing, which I love! More than once people have commented they’re ‘excited to be around someone from an area with such a good work ethic,’ and that people from the Dakota’s must have still have that great ‘pioneer mentality.’

Push come to shove, we all just need to realize that no certain way is better, whether rural, suburban or urban. There’s a good chance someone raised in a metro area wouldn’t think it be fun to hang out with my brother in his ice shack or tree stand all day. In retrospect, he’s probably not interested in hitting up the mall or club scene. Different strokes for different folks.

After Phoenix, I’ll be heading to grad school in Denver. Who knows where I’ll end up after. I love the city, but sometimes I really miss the small-town street dances and ‘mom and pop’ restaurants.  We’ll have to see. Until then, I promise to try to not be such a ruralist, if  you promise not judge this ‘small town girl.’ 🙂