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 74

Friday morning found me wondering if kids should’ve gone to school. By evening, I started to believe.

The East Coast is covered in snow and Jonas just keeps going. Yesterday, I cancelled my in-home students and made the best call. Driving is not an option with the wind and feet of snow. My Honda Civic is actually turning into a Honda Hidden:

imageMy professors have long been anticipating that we’ll miss class time. This snow may well wait until spring to melt. I’ll need to pull out my boots from when I was in Great Barrington, MA–those boots’ time have come and they were made for walking.

So, 2016 is sure a bundle of surprises!

I have had my own personal surprises. The first week of January, I received a scholarship from Mason that covered nearly all my tuition expenses for the semester. This was beautiful. This will be the first time since I started college that I won’t have money dead-lines teasing me.

Another small surprise is that I’ll be writing for Mason’s student-run online newspaper, The Rival. My first post hit the Internet on January 20th. It was also my first movie review, and though I’m no critic, I really got into the review. I didn’t even go to the theater with the intention of writing about the film. Writing teaches you how to process visual stimuli! Writing is rewarding, but even as an English major, I don’t do enough.

At 21 years, I have no excuse not to write. I have a store full of memories and life in progress.

am I here?

here I am,

my eyelids weigh,

drag me down. . .

the hours

the hours

the hours I have slept

escape me. . .

though my soul is voiceless

it is restless

from all the steps

the sole of my feet take

to nowhere, over and over.

save me

from forgetting how to be

what I claim to be

I am, I am poet

turns to I was, I was poet.

I am, I am alive

turns to I was, I was alive.

pull out the matches

and turn ablaze my inspiration

a stroke of illusion

that someone hears

my heart’s beat,

through these words

I matter.

I am matter.

I am here.

Words are not stable

Oh, no, words are not stable.

in a fleeing flutter,  they can easily pass me by.

When they settle, it’s at their own pace.

They are happy to run into each other,

to intermingle, and still, I try

to build with them permanent monuments:

to host the history of my memories

and visitors to my curiosities…

when given a chance.

1,000 miles: step 60

2014-03-02 15.43.15

I actually came across this whiteboard message a week ago, on my way to one of my tutoring sessions. Although today is a slow Friday, it’s a welcome from the days that have filled up this week.

Next week, I have yet another job interview, which adds up the grand total to half a dozen so far. I’m grateful for the interviews, but silent rejection is not cool, man. At least for one of my interviews, I’ve been told, I’ll get called regardless of my being hired. Yet, I can’t say I’m utterly unemployed.

My tutoring hours have built up recently. I’m learning a great deal about what I do love: teaching, even when the student is sometimes a kid complaining about the boringness of the English subject… breaks my heart every time.

I must be honest, I would feel much better reporting to my amazing and “massive” blog audience, prettier things like poetry and books. Though, I’ve opened several books, I’m leaving just as many unfinished. I suppose, being a student is my favorite, most inspiring occupation. I look forward to the fall most anxiously.

In the meantime, Claudia really must read and write, if only madly.

I leave with a display at NOVA’s Alexandria library. Spring is in the air:

2014-03-07 09.00.15

poem of womanhood

I have a truth to tell about last month. It was a disaster–you already know April is a cruel month dear-reader. But for a poetry fanatic like me, it was an utmost disaster, with bits of poems sprinkled on random sheets of paper and some words refusing to stick on any page.

I won’t even be spending my weekend with DC’s second annual Louder Than a Bomb high school poetry performance competition. I had no idea the first one even happened, which goes to show you how fickle my love for poetry must be. Now, it isn’t that I think less of poetry. Truth be told, in a parallel universe, I am still in high school–where Poetry Out Loud and Louder Than a Bomb welcome me.

Right now, I am old. Old in the sense that I don’t need to be told that poetry can and will channel whatever troubles float through my head. And old in the sense that I have to take poetry seriously–it’s not always about my therapy. I have to remind myself: above all, Claudia is an academic, a future educator. It is because I’m such a fantastic academic that I am spending the weekend studying the things I really love… things like precalculus and sarcasm.

2013-05-03 17.08.00

things like scattered, poem-less pages

So, to start May on the right foot…

Poem of Womanhood

Momma used to say only grown women

wear make-up, and I would stare,

seeing little girls playing pretend:

their eyelids stealing strips of the rainbow

with pinks sprayed on their cheekbones,

and their eyelashes sprinkling desire

their lips coated in red, which so easily turned into hatred.

Momma used to say being a woman meant being chased.

I demurred and resolved to never play tag again

or parade my face in cosmetics…

until keeping my word was no longer a choice,

and I found the occasional necessity

to wear my smile with the softest of lips

and to conceal the pink in my cheeks

to keep secret that I was holding my breath

that my heart turned into drums when I woke,

and I could no longer deny that I was in love,

doomed to be crushed and be second class

to a lover aware of my insignificance.

With a blush of my cheeks I had confessed

I love this volatile existence,

even though Momma always says,

the truth about Life is that it behaves like most men–

out to capture hearts for breaking

and the strongest of sufferings is the sting of love,

but I believe if I love honestly, madly enough

Life will crumble at my humbleness,

refuse to see me as child, daughter, woman,

or could-be mother, but as an equal (and a fool).