Stay in school, kids

Oh the irony. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking to a group of UTA marketing/PR students. You know, trying to mold the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. 

Which makes what I did yesterday that much more deplorable.
There’s two very cute, right-out-of-college girls in some of my grad school classes. They’re a bit overwhelmed (it’s that part of the semester where we’re all a tad bit stressed), and one emailed me and asked for advice. She was so sweet… she said I was always encouraging, and she wanted me to remind her why she was getting her master’s.
But she caught me on a night when I was particularly “over” school. Probably because I spent six hours on my Friday night doing homework. Plus another two evenings last week. Tonight, I did four hours after work. More of the same tomorrow. And probably Friday night too. So when she asked me for encouragement, what she got instead was…
The truth. I told her to run away, as fast as she can, while she still has a semblance of a social life left. I told her that I was sick of missing out on fun things, new hobbies, hanging out with friends, playing in softball leagues, and altogether having a simple, laid-back life. I told her to quit and to never look back. I was joking, of course. I thought she could tell.
Sometimes people don’t “get” my sense of humor.
Next thing I know I’m getting emails from both girls, telling me that they agree and they’re ready to quit. Eeek! No, please don’t quit grad school because of me! I don’t want to be *that girl* who ruined your academic career just because I was in a particularly cantankerous mood one evening. I called my mom, and to make me feel better, she admitted that she once talked a co-worker out of going back and finishing her undergraduate degree. She told her to go play with her grandkids instead. That very day the lady withdrew from her college algebra class and never returned. Another drop-out attributed to my family. Great. People really shouldn’t come to us for academic advice (ironic, since my mother is a teacher with a master’s degree, married to a man who used to be a professor with two master’s degrees).
I probably won’t mention that part tomorrow during the Q&A session with the college kids. I’m going to put on my best smile and sweetly yet assertively tell them to stay in school. Finish your degree. And don’t listen to sarcastic girls if they tell you differently. We’re usually just joking.

Fake Smile

I got a shout-out on a national PR blog today! A leading author on PR Measurement said in her blog that our paper was “one of the best of the academic + practitioner papers” at the conference! She also posted photos from our opening night mixer. And in true Bethe form, my eyes are closed! Yep, I love flattering photos posted for hundreds of people to see.

You can probably tell that I’m feigning enthusiasm. That’s my fake smile. 

Here’s what I was probably feeling on the inside…
(This photo was taken in Venice… right after I got caught in a rain storm with no umbrella.)


I survived my big paper presentation. I think the PhD’s were so surprised that we actually wrote a paper about something REAL, and they were probably a bit distracted by my pretty 4-color hand-outs (for a PR conference, the handouts here have been decidedly bland), so they forgot to string me up by my toenails and take turns beating me up with their criticism. Instead, they asked me questions I knew how to answer and complimented us on our interesting topic and method. The editor of a well-known PR journal stayed after our presentation and told us he would like to publish our article in his journal this year! Hooray! Everything went so much better than I had expected, but I’ll admit that I was this close to peeing in my pants at one point. All that worry for nothing. 


I’m at my academic research conference in Miami, and it’s quite a an experience. I’m one of about five non-PhD’s in a room of 100 people, which means I’m the only one who doesn’t dream about T-tests and regression analysis. They want to publish a 10o-page thesis on some obscure communication theory… I want to publish silly junior high fiction. 

But it’s good to be exposed to new things. This is a counter-culture of people that I never really understood before, but after listening to 24 research papers be presented today (no kidding) I have a better idea of just what it means to be an academic. And I know I’m not one of them.
Please say a little prayer for me tomorrow as it’s my turn to present my research… 26 glorious pages on employee engagement, control mutuality and dialogic communication. Some of these PhD’s may eat me alive, and I think they’re going to enjoy it.
Also say a prayer that I don’t die of starvation. I’m not a picky eater… the only thing I don’t eat is fish and cheesecake. Guess what they served for lunch… fish and cheesecake. Which  meant that all I got were a few bites of powdered mashed potatoes and some zucchini. By early afternoon, I started a desperate search of our hotel for anything edible. I was told by an employee that there was NOTHING for me to eat. No candy bar, no spare cookie, no hamburger at the grill… apparently I’m staying in the only hotel in America without even a vending machine. I pleaded with the gal, telling her I would pay for the food, if they could just find me SOMETHING. Maybe I looked like I was about to break down, because she eventually left and came back with a slightly-smashed nutra-grain bar. She probably dug it out of her purse. Bless her. 
Back to the adventure… I guess I’ll go learn something.

Taylor will make it all better

It’s such a downer when I write about how stressed I am because of school. I’ve been back in school for three years now, and juggling that, along with work and the 100 other things I try to do is simply exhausting. I’m a bit burned out. But I’m only three classes from graduating, so I will continue to plug along until I either finish, or marry an independently wealthy Baptist minister. If that happens, I’m going to QUIT school and become a “lady who lunches.” Keep your fingers crossed, please.

This week was particularly stressful after I realized I will have  two 20-page papers due the same week in April, a deadline that is furiously approaching. The panic started to build up to near intolerable levels, until I found my new coping mechanism. Some people take up smoking, or drinking, or hard living.
I’ve taken up Taylor Swift.
On my way to and from class, when I’m having a particularly stressful day, I roll down my windows in my car and belt out Taylor Swift songs at the top of my lungs. Usually I include hand motions and fist pumps through my sunroof. For a few minutes, I forget my deadlines and become Rock Star Bethe. It’s fantastic. And freeing. 
I swear I sound just like her. But just like Cinderella, whose coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight, the minute I leave my car I go back to being tone-deaf and untalented. If you want to see a show, I guess you’ll have to hitch a ride!

Finally, school pays off

I found out late last week that the research paper I have worked so hard on this semester was accepted to a conference in Miami. In mid-March, my professor and I will go present our research to a bunch of public relations academics and professionals. And we’re competing for “top paper” with some other folks… at times I can be a bit competitive, and this one has a CASH PRIZE, which means I would really, REALLY like to win. When you start talking monetary rewards, research seems to become a bit more interesting.

I could tell you what it’s about, but the title alone is about 50 words long and would put you straight to sleep. Basically, it’s about how intranets can provide employees with “voice” in a large organization. I have enjoyed learning about intranets and creating one of my own, but my 25 pages of literature review, descriptions and stats might just put you to sleep. Hopefully it won’t put the conference attendees to sleep. I guess either way, I get a trip to Miami out of the deal.

Just give me the stupid grade already

I tend to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to my graduate program. Like, if I turn in an assignment, I expect to have it graded and returned. If you give me a test, I expect you to return it and tell me how I did. I expect you to actually read the papers that I make so many sacrifices to write.

But sometimes that’s too much to ask. Not all my professors… I have had a few who are absolutely fantastic. And I have had a few who are not.
So tonight my professor returned my research paper… which I honestly kind of phoned in anyway. Let’s face it, I had a tough semester and I had a 98 going into this final paper, so I approached it with a “good enough” attitude. I even reconciled the fact that I just might get a B. (gasp) in the class. My first in this program.
So you can imagine my horror when I got back the paper and it had a big fat 17 on the top. SEVENTEEN. Eeeek! Are you kidding me? I may have done a less than stellar job, but a SEVENTEEN???? I thought you could get at least 17 points just for putting your name on it. 
And then my professor explained that this score was like golf… the lower your score, the better you did. So I think, “Do I subtract 17 from 100? Does that mean I made an 83?” 
Apparently  not. Because  a perfect score was an 8. Seriously. Somehow an 8 is a 100, and a 100 is a 0. Huh? So I have no idea what a 17 means. I figure it’s somewhere between an 83-91. Whatever. Honestly, I was too tired to mess with it this morning. So I took my 17 and went home. I take that back… my 17 and I went out for sushi with friends from class, and then we went home.
I’m not sure this paper will be going on my refrigerator.

Sushi Support Group

So a Muslim, a Jew and a Baptist go to a sushi restaurant…

Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? Actually, that was my night–I went out to dinner with a few friends from grad school tonight after class, and we had a BLAST. It was so fun–one girl is a Muslim from Pakistan (but has lived in the US most of her life). Another girl is a Jewish Chilean who has just been in the US for a year. And then there was a girl from Keller… and then me. The blue-eyed blonde girl with freckles from Texas (sometimes don’t you wish you were deliciously exotic? I do!).
I love getting to know people who are nothing like me, but everything like me. I love hearing their stories, breaking down stereotypes and learning what makes them tick. We talked about boys, school, religion, Middle Eastern conflicts, movies, our families, the election… all the stuff normal classmates talk about. And we did it all while eating $3 sushi at a little hole-in-the-wall close to campus.
Experiences like that form some of the good memories that I’ll take away from my grad school experience. It dulls the pain of all of those hours of homework, the social activities I’m forced to sacrifice, and the evenings spent in a classroom with no windows. Because occasionally I get to make a new friend, somebody I would normally never get to know under any other circumstances.
In fact, we’re already planning our next outing… a make-over party! One of the girls is a local television reporter who is a make-up pro… so she’s providing the rest of us with a Sephora make-up tutorial. We may be grown-ups, but we’re never too old to play dress-up. It’s fun to be a girl, even if I’m not deliciously exotic!

But what if it takes two more years?

My family held an intervention the past two nights. My parents basically told me that I am over-doing it with school and work and life in general, and that next semester I should go back to just one class. I guess it’s not healthy to always feel like you’re going to cry, or collapse from exhaustion that comes from working two jobs and taking two night classes. 

Part of me wants to hunker down and take two classes so I can stay on track to graduate next Christmas (I have five classes left). But another part of me wants to cry at the idea, and realizes that life has become too much to handle. Will the world end if it takes me two more years to finish? If, during those two years, I can coast and enjoy life and play with friends, and only worry about school one night a week? The thought brings so much relief. 
Maybe they’re on to something…


I feel like most of my posts are about how tired, or busy,or stressed I am. All are true, because this has been the toughest year of my life. Working full time, having a part-time job, and going to graduate school has begun to take its toll on me physically. I have hit moments of exhaustion worse than I’ve ever experienced before. I keep telling myself that the worst is behind me, I have 13 more months and counting. Hopefully.

But today I’m enjoying a personal retreat. I’m far from civilization, sitting on my balcony overlooking a gorgeous lake, enjoying absolute quiet. This afternoon I got a massage, read a book, took a nap, and then went for a long run through the hills around the lake. Days like these are enough to recharge my batteries for a little while longer. After today, I can go back to the real world of homework, deadlines, and responsibilities.

But for a few more minutes I’m going to enjoy some peace.