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Gratitude

May 13, 2013 at 1:58 am

After months of searching, application writing, and interviewing, I have succeeded in finding summer work! In addition to working Reunion 2013 at Carleton, I’ll be spending most of the summer working in Carleton’s Science Education Resource Center office. At the beginning of September, I’ll enter training to become a New Student Week Leader as well as starting work as a Student Manager in Carleton’s dining halls.

Work in dining services has a bad image among first-year students because it’s not one of the work-study jobs that have a high ratio of free homework time (for example, merely manning a desk in an office somewhere) to actual work. I honestly love dining hall work (though you will hear me complain about it when I’m behind on my schoolwork or the work prevents me from attending/participating in a campus event). I wasn’t very good at the job when I first started--I remember all too well the cheese pizza I dropped on my manager’s foot, the beautiful full tray of lasagna I upended, the marinara sauce I spilled all over one of the chef’s pizza stones, the tears of frustration in my eyes from a combination of sleep deprivation and inability to memorize whether the dishes that my supervisor was quizzing me on were made without gluten or not, and the many, many other mistakes I’ve made (including sleeping through one of my dinner shifts--can you believe they still hired me?). I finished making most of my mistakes during Fall Term, though. There’s not much room for incompetence in the dining halls, especially during rush hour traffic, and being thrown into the work with nearly no training was hard for me because I like to be prepared and know what I’m doing from the beginning. But I’ve grown into a efficient machine from the indecisive and meek worker I was, someone who was chastised by chefs for saying ‘sorry’ too much on multiple occasions on the job. Having a job while in college is important, not only because you’re forced to learn how to balance work, schoolwork, and your social life+extracurriculars, but also because you learn marketable job skills that you could never gain from reading a textbook. I’m infinitely better at thinking on my feet, being decisive, and being able to look at a situation and instantly deducing what needs to be done and prioritized in it than I was at the beginning of the school year. Every shift I work in the dining hall feels so good now because I know exactly what I’m doing. It feels as good as beginning a run when you’re all fit and lean muscle (at least that’s how I imagine it--I’ve never felt particularly in shape for running, but I didn’t have a better analogy at the moment)

Being a New Student Week leader will be a big leap for me. The summer before Carleton, I decided that shy, high-school me needed to go away forever, and that I would be as outgoing as I could be at Carleton and have lots of friends. I sort of succeeded, though shy me is still very much a part of now-me; it’s simply better internalized and much less obvious now (though it still pops up at inopportune moments). During my own New Student Week, I shocked my mother by how gregarious I was capable of being--I even made friends with random people in the lunch line during NSW. I still had trouble speaking up in the small-group discussions we had in our NSW groups for a few reasons--one, because I’m not especially good at putting my thoughts into spoken words on the spot--I like to have time to think about the words I use, which is why I like to write, which is why I get to blog here. Two, I didn’t want to say something stupid and have people think poorly of me, and I also often didn’t feel as if I had something worthwhile to contribute. This is something I’m better at grappling with now. This year, when I was debating to take a discussion-based class that was full of upperclassmen or wait a few years to take it until I was better at being a strong presence in discussions, one of my floormates, a graduating senior, advised me that the only difference between seniors and first years in discussions was that the seniors had learned over their time at Carleton not to be afraid of making fools of themselves in discussion or of being wrong.

One of the things that kept me sane as I worried about being jobless/homeless over the summer (Carleton only provides summer on-campus housing to students who are employed on campus at least 20 hours a week, and I didn’t want to deal with looking for housing and a job in Northfield, and I have to stay in Minnesota because I’m in the middle of the naturalization process and need to be able to get to the Cities on the US Immigation office’s whim) was one of my dance classes, Modern Dance III. Ballet has and will always have a special place in my heart, and there’s nothing lovelier than the gravity-defying lines that a well-trained ballet dancer can create with his/her body. However, there’s a set right and wrong technique, and Ballet has ages-old rules on how to create the most aesthetically pleasing forms and how to make yourself look longer and lither. My Modern II class was taught similarly to the way I’ve always trained in ballet--it mattered foremost how you positioned your hands and legs from moment to moment. It was much less about me, the dancer, and self-expression, and more about self-discipline and getting ‘it’--the combinations of steps and the technique--right. Modern III has so far focused entirely on experimentation with the force of gravity and how we can collaborate with it to dance with the smallest expenditure of energy possible. It’s a mentally relieving class because the technique doesn’t matter as much as understanding and being in tune with the way your body is moving on a much more primeval level, if that’s the right word. The class has even changed who I am as a person. For one, at the beginning of the class, I had trouble dancing as if I wanted to be seen--I was inexperienced in Modern Dance and was in a class full of talented Semaphore dancers. For another, I’ve never been much of a risk-taker; I’ve never been seriously injured throughout my years of dancing because, for example, I’ve always been one to go for a clean double turn instead of trying for a triple or more and risk losing my balance. Now, I’m much less afraid of falling, throwing myself into a roll on unforgiving hardwood, or the consequences of falling out of a handstand. It never results in anything worse than bruises, and the ground isn’t so much of an enemy anymore.

If I’m discussing things that have kept me sane, I have to talk about my floormates--still unquestionably the best friends I have here and still the people that I most want to see at the end of a long day spent in classrooms and/or the Libe. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we’re going to be living apart on campus next year, with our Room Draw lottery numbers ranging from the 40s to almost the 300s (out of the 500+ members of the class of 2016). I’m still constantly meeting new people, and that’s how things should always be, but I’ll still want a home group of people to return to. I chose to live on a designated substance-free floor because of what a ’12 Carleton grad who went to my high school told me when I visited here as a prospective student: students on sub-free floors tend to grow closer to their first-year floormates than on other floors, simply because we so often spend our Friday/Saturday nights and other free time together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Here are some of the aforesaid floormates, on this past (absolutely perfect) midterm break Monday. The temperature had gone up to 77 degrees, I was relaxed enough to enjoy finishing some philosophy reading outdoors, and I got to frolic with these kids. I really think it's best that Minnesotan weather is terrible and Carleton keeps us busy because you simply appreciate the sunny, relaxing days all the more.

Midterm Break 

A big thank you to Carleton's Career Center for their help with my resume and with interview practice, and also to my friends for their moral support after various job rejections and additional interview practice.

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