1,000 miles: step 81

The graduation glow doesn’t last forever. The pride, though, persists. I’ve framed one or two graduation pictures, and I’m still in awe at my large, vertically shaped diploma which confers me, Claudia V. Rojas, a Bachelor of Arts in English with recognition.

Now let’s get down to business and ask the real questions. Here is a recent interview I conducted with Claudia Rojas:

What’s the best part about being a college graduate?

It’s the new sense of time. I don’t have to worry about turning in an essay any time soon. I’m not stressed about grades. I have a life outside of school. I exist!

Central Park

Central Park, a wonder

I’ve actually done more travel this summer than any previous summer combined. This June, for example, I went to New York City, for the first time ever. I spent a short weekend discovering Battery Park in lower Manhattan, where I saw the Fearless Girl statue and walking around the giant forest of Central Park. Of course, I snapped tons of picture for the Instagram feed!

I’ve explored close to home, too, places I should’ve already known if it weren’t for college and my workaholic tendencies. From visiting an old favorite, Old Town, Alexandria to a new favorite, Arlington’s Crystal City which is bursting with life all summer long. Recently, I took the Silver Line to Reston, which isn’t exactly close to me, but is one of the biggest metro projects in recent DMV history, phase one of the two part project completed in 2014. Yay, history.

What’s the worst part about graduation?

Unemployment, and the fear of long-term unemployment. As a part-time student, I was able to gain work experience while in college. I figured this would make the full-time job search easier. In some ways, it does. I can speak to my work years in cover letters. I have a better sense of what companies and work setting I like and don’t like.

Of course, I figured getting a full-time job in my field, writing and editing, would be difficult. What I didn’t anticipate is my own sense of panic. There have definitely been days where I have questioned my merit as a candidate. Job applications are similar to poetry submissions–they both send rejections your way.

In true Claudia spirit, I have kept going. One of the things that I’ve tried is freelance writing. That’s right, if you ever need a freelancer, find me and hire me on Upwork! I am always on the look for small poetry projects; that’s where my heart is at, after all.

What’s been keeping me busy?

Book sculpture at Library

A library day at my local Falls Church library

Job applications: I’ve been conducting an intense search for hiring companies and researching employee reviews with said companies. At home, at the library, or on the phone, I’ve been searching for editing and writing positions. Internship opportunities. Summer work. You should see my excel spreadsheet.

Poetry: I’ve had time to work on my poetry. In the past, I was organizing poems according to forms, because I was and am in love with forms. Now that I’m out of school (and graduate school will be a few years into the future), I can look at my poems as a whole.

I’ve decided that many are ready to be organized into a collection. Since I’ve been unemployed for over a month, I haven’t been making an income. Fortunately, there’s a lot of free writing workshops in Northern Virginia and publishing webinars. More fortunately, I gained some marketing experience when I created and succeeded with a small GoFundMe campaign. I’m currently working on final edits and submitting to literary venues and contests with reading fees.

Volunteering: I’ve become a contributor with Booked for Reviews (B4R), a blog for young readers. Check out my review for Walter Dean Myers’ Darius & Twig and Dawn Lajeunesse’s Star Catching. Can you tell that I have a soft spot for the young adult genre? Additionally, I’ve been volunteering with a junior youth program at my local library. Though I’ve stopped tutoring, I suppose kids have a way of finding me.

Anything else?

Yes! While I’ve been getting rejections from journals and magazines, I’ve also been gathering a few acceptances. Stay tuned to find out where. Next week, I also have some news, so don’t miss that.

Have a question I didn’t ask myself? Post a comment! Tweet me. Message me. I’m here.

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1,000 miles: step 58|Speak Spanish?

Exchange

“You have a call,” the librarian tells me. I raise my eyebrow, confused. At the other end a woman’s voice thanks me for sharing my computer “knowledge,”and the conversation is over too soon.

I place back the desk phone and rush over to once again meet a woman I’ve never seen before. My new student comes to me, small and eager. I can tell by the look on her face that she is wondering about something. I decide that my answer will be yes as asks: “Do you speak Spanish?” I grin, “Sí, yo hablo español.”

She is glad. She speaks quickly, telling me it’s been 10 years since she heard from her sister, and I nod, trying to piece together what she’s expecting from me. She doesn’t have her phone number, or her address, yet alone an e-mail address. She has a paper and pencil and writes several names. At the very top, her sister’s full name and her children’s names. She is hoping that el internet, the internet, has some record of them.

Social media might have, I tell her. We navigate with search buttons.

We go down through the list, failing to find matches and I apologize when a name is similar, but is from México, Argentina, Colombia, Perú… instead of Bolivia. I tell her that names on social media can change, and women’s last names change too. We even come across the profile of a young woman with public photos of what seems like her recent marriage–she’s wearing a white wedding dress, she smiles, her head at an angle, in the arms of the groom.

It delights me when we later come across the best hope of reaching her sister, a possible niece, a teen girl who lives in Bolivia. I remind her that this may or may not be her sister’s daughter, that that shouldn’t deter her, sometime, she’ll catch onto the internet on her own.

Admitting that she can’t type, she writes her message on paper and pencil for me. She watches me type. It’s not the first time my skinny, long fingers, with their steady tapping,  have been so closely watched.

I hit Send. Our lesson is soon over.