Category Archives: The Tales of a Weary Writer

The Struggles of the Educated::How Do We Get Ahead?


485939_504914949568698_1234484701_nLately, I’ve been pondering my decision to seek a higher education and obtain my bachelor’s degree. I’ve heard so many people say that it has replaced the high school diploma for job applications and it puts you in high demand. However, right after college I began seeking careers that would best utilize my degree. Bare in mind, while in college I participated in many different groups in organizations to obtain the experience in the editing field. I was told that this would count as experience on my resume and it would make me even more desirable among employers.

I can’t even count how many rejection letters I got back that explained to me how I needed more experience before they would consider me. I remember one rejection letter came back to me 15 minutes after submitting my application. That was a huge blow to the ego. And now, it’s been so many years since I had that writing experience that I may have to start at square one to find a career like that. And I don’t even know if I want a ‘career’… I think I just want a life and a paycheck.

Ok, well maybe I screwed myself over by not getting an internship, or by moving around, or by settling for the first job that came at me. In my defense, my student loan bills came at me at full force. Not to mention car payments, daily expenses, insurance, and eventually rent. Because of this, and because of rejection after rejection from employers, I was forced to move back home with my parents and work at McDonalds. I’m not going to sit around and let my bills go unpaid. That’s irresponsible…

And I was in constant search of independence. Why would a successful person be living with their parents?

I continued down this path, trying to find the right job. I was also on the hunt for the perfect car and in hot pursuit of the most luxurious home. I also began to be a ‘thing hoarder’… This is a horrible trait in which I had to buy anything and everything, and hang on to it. I went into stores and came out with all sorts of decorative items that I thought would look good in my new place once I moved out! Stuff is what showed people how successful you are, right?

Anyways, here I am three years after graduation. I’ve got a decent paying job, a college degree that I’m only using in my spare time, and roughly $20,000 worth of debt. I’m VERY thankful for the job that I have and wouldn’t give it up. I’m simply starting to question the decisions I made in my past leading up to my life at this point.

Did I really only go to college because I was told that was the way to be successful?

Honestly, I don’t believe a Bachelor degree or a college education is the true and only definition of success. I have a handful of friends and acquaintances that either forwent college or dropped out. According to what I was told in high school (back in 2006) they should have been the ones struggling to make ends meet. However, if you think about it, they don’t start out their adult working lives with an insurmountable amount of debt. That makes kick-starting adulthood a whole lot easier. Most of them have been established in their jobs long enough to be promoted, have started families, and bought homes. Kudos to them! And yet, here I am still trying to make sense of my life.

That silly little housing crisis in 2008 probably didn’t help matters either, but that was completely out of my control.

Right now, we’re living in an area where the cost of living is ridiculously high, but it’s about the only place where we can get higher-paying jobs. We are still hunting for cheaper living, but it’s not easy. And moving into any Section 8 apartments is a death wish here.

There are almost no luxuries in our home, and yet it feels like we’re still struggling to conquer debt.

  • We have Internet, but we do not have cable (FYI, Comcast is charging us $70/month for JUST THE INTERNET and I am still fighting with them to lower the cost)
  • We do not go out to eat more than twice a month
  • We do not go out to clubs/bars/etc
  • We do not get professional haircuts more than a few times a year
  • I do not get my nails professionally done
  • We rarely shop for anything other than groceries
  • We do not have expensive hobbies like skiing
  • We do not have a gym membership
  • We do no-contract phones to avoid ridiculus monthly costs
  • We coupon our brains out for groceries
  • We have shut off circuit breakers in our apartment to cut electricity costs
  • We have been a 1-car household for 5 1/2 months to try and make ends meet
  • We are selling stuff on Craigslist to earn extra money
  • We are picking up second jobs to keep up on the bills
  • We stopped using credit cards
  • We moved our bed into the living room and turned off/unplugged all electricity to the bedroom
  • We rarely turn the heat on in the winter, and if we do it’s for no more than a few hours

And all we want out of life?

  • To be debt free
  • Get married
  • Build our home
  • Start a homestead
  • Raise a family

I don’t anticipate much of a reaction to this post. I mostly expect people to come back at me with statements about my wrong decisions:

  • You should have gone to graduate school!! And go further into debt and spend the rest of my life playing catch-up?
  • You picked the wrong career path!! Maybe you’re right.
  • You should have taken your job hunt more serious!! All the phone calls and all the emails in the world couldn’t have made a difference. If an employer doesn’t want you, they don’t want you.
  • There are people without degrees suffering more than you!! I will not disagree with you.
  • Everybody goes through this!! Then why do we feel like such a minority?

Whatever. I think it’s pretty sad that there is a society where people work hard to make all the right decisions and still be kicked in the face.

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5 Things That Are Most Important To Me


With all the talk of lotteries and debt lately, there have been many fantasies going through my head. I’m sure you have them, too.

“If I had a million dollars, I would pay off all my student loans and go on a cruise.”
“I would donate most of it to my favorite charity.”
“All I want is a new car”

Another seemingly unconnected topic that floats in and out of my brain is the idea of downsizing my life.

Smaller apartment.

Less stuff.

Less expenses.

Honestly, if I won the lottery, I don’t see myself living the glamorous life by any means. Between James and me, we would use the money to pay off all of our debts, finally build and move into a place of our own, and just live comfortably. After all is said in done, depending on our fictional lottery winnings, we would probably have to pick up jobs afterwards to sustain our lifestyle.

The beauty part of working after your debts are paid off: You can work how you want to work! And working less hours means you would have more time to focus on what’s more important.

I have created a list of 5 things in my life I would devote more time to if a job or money wouldn’t get in my way. In order for you to get a better idea, let me paint you a picture of this glorious event if it were to happen.

James and Lyssa purchased the winning lottery ticket. After taxes, they will be receiving $1,000,000.00! After a few celebratory drinks, they sit down and begin to devise a plan for the money. They divvied it up between their new home, two new gas-efficient vehicles, their debt, emergency fund, retirement, a huge donation to our families, a massive donation to Lyssa’s sister’s daycare, miscellaneous donations to our favorite charities, and college fund for any future children they may have. Oh yes, and a nice basset hound named Quincy and a Persian kitty named Duke.

With less debt on their minds, and their future comfortably funded, they are able to work less hours and still be able to cover their basic living expenses. This, in turn, frees up time they would have otherwise spent working their butts off to get to such a point of comfortable living.

Here is what I would like to focus on in my extra time. Never mind the vacations, the fancy boats, loud motorcycles, or glamorous pieces of jewelry. These are the things that would matter most to me:

1.)    Volunteering

The best times I ever had in my life typically revolved around a volunteer activity. Last year, James was working as a church youth director and had recruited many of his congregation members to come ring bells for the Salvation Army at the mall. It ate up an entire Saturday, but it was a blast! We got to meet all sorts of people. I personally enjoyed seeing the ways these kids enthusiastically cheered on the people who dropped coins and bills into the red kettle.

If given a choice, I would love to spend time volunteering at a local animal shelter. I’d also enjoy working with children or teens doing crafts or other creative activities.

2.)    Writing!!!

That includes working on my novel, collaborating a book of my award-winning poems (yes, it’s so awesome to have those in my writing portfolio!), and working on this blog more faithfully. This may also include searching out writing groups or creating one!

3.)    Family

My money situation has always been tight. So tight that I can’t always afford the extra gas money to visit my family. And now that we’re down to one vehicle, this endeavor is especially difficult. It would be great to see my nieces and nephews more often, especially on their birthdays and assorted holidays. It would also be great to afford the flight down to visit James’ family more often.

4.)    Exercise/Meditation

My senior year of college, I was a moving machine! I was in yoga, belly dancing, and swing dance. I loved it! These were the best forms of exercise, and I lost 10 lbs total in two semesters! Working my ass off to keep up with my debt has left little time for these recreational activities.

The one thing I really loved about yoga was the meditation. I still attempt to practice meditation even if I’m not participating in formal yoga. This just means I’m watching TV, or lying in bed, and I focus on my breathing and clearing my mind. It’s amazing how just breathing differently can affect your health, physically and emotionally.

 

5.)     ME!

In so many ways, I need to take care of myself. Vanity-wise, I have been wearing the same outfits I got a Goodwill quite a few years ago, I haven’t gotten a formal haircut in months, I’d love to wax my eyebrows, and I would like to look into getting more prescription glasses to match my changing looks.

Health-wise, I haven’t seen a formal doctor in over three years. I haven’t had decent insurance to cover the visit, and I haven’t been able to take the time off work to schedule an appointment (the before and after work appointments fill up fast). I would like to see a doctor about my ocular migraines and see a dentist about my wisdom teeth. I should also get my eyes checked out.

I am also the bearer of far too many quirks. Yes, they make up who I am, but sometimes it makes me painfully awkward and I’d like to tackle that piece by piece. I have an irrational fear of vomiting and I get anxiety from time to time. If I had the time and the money, I would seriously throw myself into some intensive therapy to get me somewhat closer to sane.

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The Power of Music:: Forever by John Stamos and the Beach Boys


A story about James and me…

Five years ago, two teenagers were hanging out in a shitty dorm room watching reruns of Full House. It was a DVD, a gift to the girl for Valentine’s Day. They were in love. It was a brand new love, maybe a month old. They were exited, and the world was still brand new to them. They were starting a new life, and while learning what it means to be independent, they found each other.
They watched the episode where this song debuted. It was official. This was their song. They slow danced to that song, alone. Cheesy as it was, it was still a memory. A memory that comes back each time this song plays.

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Stuck Between a Good Idea [finish writing another chapter] and Lunch Time [leftover pasta]


I’ve been looking for divine inspiration all day today. My hope was to knock off a few more chapters in the novel I’m writing, but terrible mid-day reality shows are providing a rather effective distraction. So, in order to make sure I do at least one creative thing today, I am writing the following blog that you are reading.

My boyfriend and I are still in hot pursuit of what makes us happy. For me: being able to make a living out of being creative and NOT WEARING A UNIFORM!!! For my boyfriend: working for himself. So far, we’re off to…well, some sort of start. I’m keeping up with this blog, working on my novel and job hunting frantically for jobs without uniforms (no waitressing, no fast food if possible).

My boyfriend seems to be struggling a little more with his goals. For women, we can sell Avon, Pure Romance, Tupperware, etc. and not have to answer to a boss. There aren’t as many options for men. He really wants to find a way to be successful on his own, but he’s not sure where to start. We’ve tried Ebay, flea markets and Etsy with little to no success.

Thanks to a mountain of college loan debt and the reasonable request to live on our own, we will be stuck working the crap jobs until our own dreams start to come true. I’m just happy to have someone great to share this bloody struggle with.

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I’ve Got the Starving Artist/Waitressing Blues


[The funniest thing about the title of this blog: Google Chrome wanted to correct ‘Waitressing’ to ‘Depressing’]

[clearly, I did not create this image or own it]

It’s interesting how many starving artists end up in customer service positions.  I’ve been pondering this concept while waitressing at a local hotel restaurant. For me, it’s probably because I am so desperate for money and there always seems to be customer service positions available.

I saw a special on CNBC called ‘Customer Disservice‘ and it discussed how the customer service industry is suffering. It’s a tough business, so I’m not surprised. I have worked too many years in the customer service industry. It feels more like a sentence than a job. Like, the day I decided to become a writing major, the imaginary Counsel of Artistic Integrity and Demeanor said “Alyssa Leino Hanson, for as long as you wish to pursue a career as a creative writer, you are sentenced to work in the customer service industry. You will serve impatient, hungry customers cold eggs and answer angry phone calls regarding busted guitars.”

I know these problems aren’t unique, and that brings me comfort. Out there in the world, there is a clutter of starving artist working the crap shifts in the name of art. They stay up late trying to finish writing the next chapter, use their free time to complete just one more painting, take time off to make it to an audition on time, and work up the courage to submit their movie and theater script to big directors and theater companies.

I’m probably just going to bounce from one waitress job to the next. Hell, it’s a crap job but I’m good at it! One thing that helps me through the day: my pain-in-the-butt customers who leave me tips are paying for my future dreams! It makes me feel so much better.

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Plain & Simple


When people find out I went to school to be a writer, they suddenly think of me as this deep essayist that writes in nothing but metaphors and similes. Well, I did have to sit through those classes in order to get my fancy little Bachelor of Fine Arts. That doesn’t mean that I enjoyed them 100% of the time…

 

I am a simple person. Yes, you are permitted to make your jokes 🙂

I was never into deep books. It’s sad, I know, because I’m missing out on the joys of many great American novels. It started in eighth grade with my English class reading To Kill a Mocking Bird. Now this is a favorite among many of my friends and family. However, this book was forever ruined for me. Every word, every sentence, every page was dissected bit by bit by our English teacher. Every object had a purpose and we were going to find out what those were and be graded heavily on it. If we were wrong, our grades suffered.

The other part I absolutely HATED was having to construct an illustration of the town of Maycomb based on details in the book. Now, I’m sure some people would think of this as a fantastic project. It might have been an awesome freshman college writing course project. For this eighth grader who barely kept up with the rest of the class, it was a creative nightmare.

At first, I did alright. About four chapters in I had five or six pages marked explaining town details. I was pretty proud of myself. However, the chick who sat in front of me dug out her novel and revealed 23 bright pink post it notes marking all the town details she was able to find….crap!

Her fancy poster with perfectly traced drawing got her an A. My crappy poster with pieces of mangled construction paper glued to it got a C. Hey, I would have taken my time to make it look nice but I wasted a lot of time trying to find detail. I hashed together a rough idea the night before class.

Like I said, it was a nightmare.

Luckily, this wasn’t enough to turn me off from reading. However, I haven’t touched that book since. One day, I’m sure I will pay it another visit.

When it comes to my own writing, I never pay strict attention to ‘the other meaning’ behind the objects and scenery in my stories. Most of the ones my professors complimented me on were completely accidental. The novel I’m working on right now only has one symbolic object in it: windmills. I wanted to use them as a symbol for change.

I never wanted to write strictly for the smart and the highly knowledgeable. Quite frankly, I never got along with those folks. I simply want to write stories about people and events rather than write ten pages describing a lake to my readers and hope they understand how it symbolizes the fluidity of…AAHH! I can’t even B.S. that!!!

Let’s just say my writing method is similar to how I live my life: I am not interested in things. Things have no real meaning in my life, they simply assist me in living it. What matters the most are my experiences and who I share those experiences with.

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Hidden Talent: Writers Within Movies


Here is a short list of my favorite movies that feature writers (that are not biographies). If you can think of any more, please be sure to include them in the comments!

Stand  By Me

This movie was based of a Stephen King’s novella, or a portion of one of this other novels, I can’t remember.

The narrator is writing a story that took place when he was 12 years old. He and his childhood buds took it upon themselves to hike off into the wilderness to see a dead body. Even though that is the center of their mission, you get to witness these four boys and their coming-of-age realizations.

The narrator’s name is Gordie. As a little boy, life was rough, but he always had the support of his great friends. He was the black sheep in his family. While his older brother was into sports, Gordie hung back and wrote stories. After his brother died, he became a stranger to his parents, who simply wished he were more like his brother

Gordie’s closest friend was Chris Chambers. He was the town ne’er-do-well, his reputation set up by his asshole siblings before him. He saw Gordie’s talent as a great gift.  There’s an excellent scene were they’re walking down the train tracks while Gordie’s trying to talk himself out of being a writer because it’s so stupid. Chris stayed determined, repeating to him that he had a great gift that needed to be shared.

I think, as writers, we often have to go through struggles in order to get good writing material. It’s sad, but those experiences make up some of the greatest stories of all time (just look at the book of Job in the Bible). When things get tough, it’s hard to see the good, especially in ourselves. As writers, we really do need that outside encouragement every once in a while.  It’s true you should always believe in yourself, but nothing beats the glow that comes from others having faith in your talents.

Riding in Cars with Boys

I can’t remember if this movie was a hit or not. I know when it first came out, I was far too young to really understand it. Today, even though I haven’t experienced half the stuff that occurred in this movie, I understand and embrace it now.

The main character is Beverly. She, like every other young girl, likes boys. They’re fun to kiss, they’re fun to talk about, so on and so on. But, unlike many other girls, she wants to be a writer.

Her writing talents start off a little awkward. She’s got the beautiful words ready to put together, but she struggles with finding an appropriate audience. For example, she feels she will win over a popular jock she has a hard crush on with a poem of her own writing. Sadly, even though she requested he read it later, the jock recites her poetry to his friends and mocks her use of the word ‘loins’.

But she is able to make it through the embarrassment and continues her dream of becoming a writer…. until there was Ray. Ray is a common partier who Bev falls in love with. And, at the age of 15, Bev is impregnated by this man. Therefore, her dreams fall to the wayside. It becomes too much of a struggle to finish high school, so college is clearly out of the question.

I won’t give away any more details with this movie so I insist you check it out. The whole story is sort of written like a narrative. Bev, in the beginning, is all grown up. She wrote this book about her quest to become a writer, and the movie is like the story plot within the pages.

Moulin Rouge

Now from the realistic to the whimsical! If you haven’t seen this film, I strongly urge you too. There is so much I can say about it, but I must contain it to only a few words.

Here are the basics: The whole movie is the narrative from the main character, Christian, and the novel he is working on. Christian is a young English lad who moves to Paris to become a poet to write about truth, beauty, freedom, and love. Especially love. Upon arriving and setting forth to work, he discovers that ‘he’s never been in love!’ Uh oh! One of my writing fears includes lack of experience taking a toll on my writing quality.

Without going into much detail, let’s just say that Christian stumbles into a world of experience and falls in love.  And the best part, the greatest part, is the whole movie is one giant musical! We, as creative writers, often have a whimsical imagination that stays within our minds only becoming a textual vision when printed/typed on paper. I feel this movie brings to life many of those day dreams writers get.

And don’t you sit there and tell me: “Hey, I’m a writer and I don’t daydream.” That is a lie! Even people who don’t write day dream. It’s part of being human.

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