A Midterm Reflection

Hello, everyone!

What a time we are all having right now…

(Just to be clear, I usually dislike vague statements of this sort, but I find it to have applicability at the moment.)

Although this rather unconventional semester of mine is now becoming even more unorthodox–or perhaps because so–I am eager to use the arrival of the midterm point as an opportunity to partake in some actual self-reflection.

So, no, I do not believe that my habit of taking hasty, scattered notes on post-it notes and on my phone will suffice.

Truly, though, this semester has somehow been simultaneously sluggish and extremely brisk, and in combination with the great amount of “newness” that has permeated both my academic experiences and an internship I began in January, I have to think that taking a moment or 120 to collect my thoughts thus far would be at least a tiny bit beneficial for my psyche. To be sure, I do pity those who may read these self-indulgent meditations, but hey….

…okay, I actually cannot think of an excuse or reason why others may enjoy this “content.”

In fact, I have to admit that I, myself, hold insecurity about delineating my internal and external experiences these days, which is an orientation I have held since last summer, prompting my inclination to prioritize series-based blog posts, for better or worse. (Plus, lately, I have usually felt too limited in energy and time to delve into my more demanding concepts, honestly.) Nevertheless, with writing perhaps being my primary form of dialogue with myself and others, I will allow myself the figurative floor on which to perform a self-imposed midterm report on myself.

Without further ado, let us begin!


Lessons

Somehow, in the face of the idea of sharing the “lessons” I have learned since mid-January 2020, the first image that appears in my mind is of public transportation. This circumstance, I would say, can be credited to the ability of my time on trains and buses nowadays to encapsulate much of what has made this semester so incredibly novel to me so far. Of course, I have had some frustrating trips to, from, and within the city for my internship, and concerns from COVID-19 have certainly complicated my view of my rather complex commute; furthermore, in the time since I wrote my “First City Commuting Experience” post, I have become conscious of the performative artificiality of the sense of anonymity within these routine travels that I glorified and pursued. Still, I can say that some of my most pure feelings of contentment over the past couple of months have occurred while looking outside the window of the buses (of what is considered one of the most inefficient and unreliable CTA routes, funnily enough) onto the Chicago River, taking in views of towns in the midst of my now-traditional studying and revising sessions during train rides, and beginning to have familiar faces within a routine hosted in of the largest cities in the United States. In short, I cannot help but hold onto the remains of my doe-eyed idealization of being a Chicago commuter, along with the fulfillment I continue to hold regarding my achievement of my goals of interning at a cultural institution and becoming better acclimated to the city. And I think public transportation is generally underrated and deserving of more support from the public and through funding, obviously.

In other words, I am that kind of person who can constantly tear up during a Geoffrey Baer-hosted WTTW program about the ‘L.’

For a topic with greater practicality, I can say that so far this spring semester, I have become incredibly grateful for the CIS (Computer Information Systems) course I took this past fall. Despite my genuine love of taking any general education course, I did groan a bit last semester about the many projects I had to complete for the required class in question and harbor questions regarding the applicability of the textbooks’ extensive materials (yes, there were two textbooks) to my future.

Well, was I proven wrong!

Indeed, while I would not say that all of the specific functions, definitions, and processes of the software applications covered in the class have been relevant, I have been helped tremendously this semester from the general familiarity and confidence that I gained as a user. Whether I have been assembling class presentations or working with spreadsheets and databases at my internship, those hard and soft skills have become essential to my efficiency and and welcome sources of positive feedback from others.

Speaking of unexpected points of reference to the Fall 2019 semester, I must recognize a contrast and subsequent lesson that appeared in my mind as soon as the present term began: I enjoy and benefit from having multiple social and academic communities in which I am a member, whether or not I am an outgoing contributor in those settings.

As a consequence of my enthusiasm for my weekly attendance of college-sponsored events for my “Community College Event Challenge” series, my participation on a committee, and my correspondence with many faculty, staff, and administrators at my previous college, I truly did fear for how I would react to the social aspect of my change of schools in 2020; unsurprisingly, with great intensity, my typical start-of-semester nostalgia for past terms was targeted toward both the formal and casual groups I had just exited. While my growing familiarity with students at my new college of attendance and with the professionals with whom I work has helped me to feel more comfortable, I do miss how the strength of my prior extracurricular activities and relations granted me a reprieve from my hyperfixations on personal responsibilities and left me feeling “productive” through work for the broader educational community. Such a condition, I would say, has been intensified by my concerns of the extent to which I am overbearing on those students I am currently getting to know and working with in my classes, for various reasons I will not detail in this post (*fake smiles as my convoluted thoughts on my lack of control of how others perceive me appear*).

Acting as the site of one of my successive forms of social correspondence (wow, do I sound like a robot, or what?), the location at which I am currently interning has inspired one of my latest career-related lessons: I appreciate the office setting.

Of course, the limited number of days and hours per week that I sit in an actual office must be skewing whatever my “true” opinion on the matter would be; in any case, at least in the context of this semester, the emphasis of my internship projects on working on a computer in a designated room of the library has honestly been quite pleasing to my introverted self. Being able to focus on my tasks, while also being in close proximity to my supervisors, getting visits from people from other departments, and having semi-frequent tasks that get me up from my desk? Not a bad deal, from my perspective. (Aside from the occasional strains on my eyes from my monitor.)

I would not say by any means that I am about to shift my professional ambitions to being in roles that keep me in the office setting, though. Rather, due to both my tendency to reminiscence and my perpetual contemplations about potential career paths, I have frequently used my free moments to compare my current internship, which I am greatly enjoying, to my Spring 2019 Disney College Program experience, which I happened to greatly enjoy. Holding a handful of distinctions in atmosphere, workplace size, levels of interaction with external guest-clients, and tasks, these two service-focused experiences are ones I will continue to reckon with in my pursuit of the most suitable future positions for myself. For now, I can say that I am heavily interested in continuing to explore the prospects of managing internal and external events at such cultural or educational institutions as museums, universities, and libraries.

Oh–please allow me to also document my realization of how much more awkward I seem to be when interacting with one small group of people throughout any given day than with thousands of guests (*deep, perplexed sigh*).

On the topic of workplace culture, I will additionally give confirmation that I love wearing business-casual attire, even though my shins do not enjoy my decision to power-walk downtown while wearing heeled boots.

Finally, to conjoin my novel academic and working experiences, I can reveal one bizzare pattern that has become perceptible over the past seven-or-so weeks: I feel much more exhausted when I arrive back home from my college campus than I do after a full day at my internship site and a commuting odyssey. What is the cause? The adrenaline induced by aligning each step of my journey home, the buffer that commuting provides me, the underrated drain of mental energy that can occur during a long day of classes? My investigation on the matter continues to this day.

Now, here are some of my general goals for the second half of the semester:

Goals

  1. Be more assertive
    • This goal is one that has figuratively been at the back of my mind for years, and now more than ever, it is pertinent to my responsibilities. With my semester’s schedule entailing limited interaction even prior to virus-related cancellations, the urgency I must show in order to have my questions answered and to deal with group projects (*shivers*) has become apparent. Thus far, I have worked to be more liberal with emails, in-class questions, and office hours than I would normally be comfortable with in my current situation; still, as I have many weighty class projects in progress, I want to ensure that I reach out to others for help and feedback, sans reservations. Not to mention, if I want to leave a lasting impression and impact on the institution where I am interning, I need to finally bring my personal ambitions forward as priorities that deserve to stand alongside my assigned work.
  2. Allow myself to have more confidence in my work and myself
    • For the past year or so, I have maintained that I have become more confident than ever before in my specific capabilities for school and work tasks, but have plateaued (if not declined) in my self-assurance in most other areas. Since I am suspecting that the latter development is impeding upon my ability to take ownership of my skills and withstand even trivial instigators of self-doubt–no matter how much reassurance I am fortunate enough to be offered–I would like to at least “fake it until I make it” in terms of self-confidence.
  3. Create distinctions between my “working” and “relaxing” time
    • I believe I spend spend far too much time checking up on social media platforms, especially Twitter and YouTube; in combination with the guilt that comes with productivity culture, then, I have to think that strictly allocating my recreational Internet activity to specific, brief portions of the day could assist me in feeling greater control over my activities.
  4. Drink less caffeine (but consume more water)
    • In contrast to my periodic efforts over the past few years, I have lately been indulging past the one serving of coffee or tea that satisfies my caffeine dependence, largely due to offers from others for such drinks and their availability (for free) at my internship site. I, a coffee lover, can even sense that I am beginning to grow tired of this variety of beverage: a sign that I need to attempt to lower my consumption over the next batch of weeks. Concurrently, I have definitely become fed up with getting dehydration-induced headaches, thus provoking my objective to actually drink an appropriate amount of water throughout each busier day.
  5. Sleep more
    • Who knew that waking up hours earlier than I used to, yet going to bed at times similar to or later than usual, could make one feel tired?

Well, thank you for reading this self-indulgent blog post! Are there any personal lessons or new goals that you have developed so far this year? I would love to know!

-Stephanie


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