The view from behind the counter

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Dunkin Donuts memories I was 19 years old when I got my first job. The Dunkin Donuts up the street. I worked there full-time and then part-time for three and a half years. My favorite part was the people. Interacting with them has been my window into life at all its stages. I saw young customers grow into teenagers, I saw customers get pregnant and have children, change jobs and grieve deaths, get cancer and beat cancer, grow old and become grandparents, and go through countless other life events, all right in front of my counter.

My multiple years at a minimum wage job aren’t exactly an achievement but when I look at it from a different angle I can see its value. All the hours spent there have introduced me to people from all walks of life. I’ve met the nice ones and the crazy ones, the sweet one and the rude ones.

Even if I hated waking up for the six o’clock morning shift or walking in the rain and snow to get to work, looking back, it doesn’t seem all that bad. Yes, there were hard times, long hours on my feet, too many disgusting bathroom cleanups, creepy customers (I had a stalker for a few weeks) and annoying, lazy coworkers but in the end you kinda forget about all that, or you at least learn to laugh about it.

Dunkin has given me so many stories, memories, friends, life lessons, and “firsts”. You may laugh but I was so comfortable at Dunkin and always felt at home there, everything and everyone was familiar, predictable. When you don’t leave a place for basically four years, you end up getting attached to your “work family.”

Here are a few observations from the job:

1. People always complained about prices. And it doesn’t make sense but sometimes the ones complaining were the same people who came to the store every single day. Old habits die hard and those people would stick with their Dunkin treats no matter how much they had to begrudgingly pay.

2. We used up a lot of cardboard and paper. A lot. You should have seen the storage space in the basement. It was full of cardboard boxes. It just made me think of all the hundreds of Dunkin stores across the country all with the same cardboard graveyard in their storage spaces. Really makes you think about the forests we’re cutting down so that we can ship boxes of pumpkin syrup to coffee stores.

And whether or not a customer wanted a receipt, the register was programmed so that a receipt would always print. The “wise guy” customers liked to say “I don’t need it. Save a tree.” Well, the tree is already dead, genius.

3. People are rude. Like really rude. It used to ruin my day but I always tried to shake it off (God, Taylor Swift is everywhere). Their negative energy was so strong and it always left a bitter taste in my mouth especially when they had no logical reason for their mini fit in a store full of customers. Rude customers were just one face in a hundred I would see that day so the sooner I forgot about them the better it was for my sanity.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I hung up my apron and walked away from the store for the last time as an employee, I felt nothing but appreciation. Working in customer service and the food industry only makes you better understand and appreciate how hard it is to have to pay your dues, suck it up and make a less-than-stellar situation into a learning and growing experience.
Dunkin Donuts memories

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What happens to my life when I die?

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Red boxes of

Red boxes of “stuff”

“The things you own end up owning you.” –Chuck Palahniuk

I have three boxes full of stuff I will never throw away. These boxes hold years of memories, some great, some sad and some bittersweet. They contain birthday cards, old school schedules, report cards, my graduation gown and cap, notebooks full of my writing, newspaper clippings, notes from my friends, old agendas, and other stuff useless to others but precious to me.

I left these boxes back in Europe, in storage at my uncle’s house. They’re still there today but I had no space to bring them with me when I moved to New York. So until I go back to visit, they’ll stay boxed up. But over here, I have a new box of memories in my room. Little pieces of my four years here and it’s going to grow bigger over the years.

My dad recently took a trip back to the home country and he had a chance to sort through some of the stuff in storage. When he came back he told me he had thrown out his old military uniform and medals and badges. I was shocked. He was in the military for almost 20 years. How can you just throw away your medals and uniform? If nothing, they’re sentimental but I guess I understand, after all he obviously has no use for them now. Still for a moment there it still came as a surprise.

This made me think of all the stuff I’m hoarding. When will I throw them out? I’ve sorted through them before, and I’ve often thrown away things that have lost their significance over the years but what about the stuff I will never ever throw out? The things I’ll bring with me to every new city and new home in my lifetime? They’ll probably find themselves in a box somewhere in 40 years. Then I’ll die…and then what? Except the occasional piece of jewelry, I don’t own anything of my parents and grandparents. We’re not a family with heirlooms.

I like to thing one day I can show all my stuff to my kids and tell them the story behind each memento. But is that practical? Will they care? Will I still care in 30 years? Right now it feels hard to throw away these things. It’s like I’m erasing a memory and that’s one of my biggest fears. Forgetting. Losing little memories of my life. Getting Alzheimer’s. I’m so desperate to document my life that throwing away these mementos feels like throwing away a little piece of who I used to be. I still want to hold on to what used to be important to be in high school. I have a mason jar filled with old concert tickets and wristbands because I’m happy when I’m at concerts and I want a tangible reminder of that. This is also why I journal. I want to remember the little details of my life at 14, 18 and 22. It’s pretty incredible to read old journal entries and relive the happy days and the stressful ones. It’s like a window into my own life told by the person who knows it best – me.

This is all an attempt to establish my presence on this tiny Earth and huge universe. I don’t want to be nothing when I leave it. Will anyone read this very blog post in 2156? Is there a way my great-grandchildren can find this blog? Who knows what the Internet will even be by that time.

I have dozens of projects, blogs and journals scattered around in my life. I bet it’s now sounding like an unhealthy obsession and truth is it can feel like that sometimes. It’s tiring to update and record and write and take photos when I’m not even sure it will be worth it in the end. I’m realizing that it feels like I’m too busy documenting my life to actually enjoy living it in the moment. That’s also true at times. My argument is that feelings and moments are fleeting. Writing it down, taking a picture – these things help to preserve it so I can enjoy it over and over again. And if you do it well enough, I promise you the feeling is still in there. It’s like when you wish you could bottle up a specific scent. One that takes you back and stirs up that nostalgic feeling. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I want to relive the good times. And all this documenting we can do? It’s the closest thing we have to a rewind button in life.

Do you collect and save mementos from past years? Is it hard to part with them? What do you do about it?

I’ve never met an internship I didn’t like

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*First published on the Times Union blog “This is college!?” I love internships…maybe that’s because I’ve had great ones. I wanted to share a tiny bit of my personal experiences and encourage others to pursue internships and not blow them off! Interned somewhere cool? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Internships sometimes get a bad rep but it all depends on where you work, who’s mentoring you and how hard YOU work. You’re obviously not going to have fond memories of your internship if you spend more time with the photocopier than you do with your boss. Comedian Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” That’s what you have to do. No one will walk up to you and hand you an internship, you have to reach out, network and get your foot in the door.

Ok, enough talk about doors. Internships are crucial to your post-college success. An Internships.com survey of employers and students found that 69% of large companies with more than 100 employers made full-time offers to their interns. If it doesn’t lead to a job at least it might lead to some new professional connections. Don’t forget to meet the people around the office and talk to the ones who are doing the job you might want to do in the near future. You’ll be surrounded by professionals. Take advantage of that!

Courtesy of thoughtcatalog.com

Throughout my college career I’ve had three internships. This time last year I was interning at Metroland, this past summer I did a virtual internship with online travel website, Global Yodel and right now I’m at Times Union.

You know what I’m thankful for? Never having to sharpen pencils or be the go-to coffee run girl. My first days at all three internships were spent getting right into the good stuff. You won’t find that at just any workplace. I don’t know if I was just lucky or if I landed these internships because I wasn’t willing to settle. I spent hours on Internships.com searching for an interesting internship. I tried all kinds of keywords and search filters. I read what feels like hundreds of intern position summaries. Global Yodel caught my eye. Not only did it sound like a fun job (social media/editorial intern) but it also had a great, eye-catching website that made it look like a serious, professional but also really fun place to work for. Plus it was a virtual internship which meant I didn’t have to show up to an office…or even change out of my pajamas. Have you ever done work from your bed? It’s nice. I recommend it.

At Metroland I was able to really dive into the local scene in Albany. I got to report on a town meeting, interview fashion designers, and write a feature story on a local cidery. I never tackled the same topic twice. I wrote about a political movement but also about hook-up culture. One publication, so many flavors!

What I’m trying to say is don’t get invested in an internship if you think there is no real value to gain from it. I learned a lot during my internships and was given many great opportunities to do cool things and meet interesting people. Internships shouldn’t be dull or a way to kill time. They’re actually pretty valuable. If you find the right one, it can be an experience that will immensely improve your skills and look pretty great on your resume.

There are great site to find local or virtual internships. Try Internships.com or Internmatch.com. And a great resource for internship advice and tips is Internqueen.com.

Now that I’m on my third (and hopefully final) internship, I’m sure these remaining months will be worth it. As long as I’m learning and being constantly challenged then I’m happy. I’m not here for the college credits, I’m here for the experience.

Where have I been?

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Photo by e.b.

Photo by e.b.

Whether or not anyone has noticed my absence on WordPress, I sure have missed being part of the community. I admire anyone who has a full life (whether that is a professional, academic or social one) and still finds time to blog on a regular basis! I envy applaud your passion and excellent time management 😛

I’ve been busy. Yeah, we all say that as an excuse for slacking. I’m in my final year of college and even though I’m only taking one class and one internship this semester I still somehow managed to find a few odd jobs to keep myself occupied.

I’m the social media manager of a local music festival. After attending last year’s MOVE Music Fest I wanted to volunteer for this year’s and instead found myself taking on their social media accounts and being more involved than I ever thought was possible. As a committee member and social media manager, I attend meetings and help make decisions on everything from headlining bands to ticket dates and new festival features.

A portion of the 100 bands. Photo from MOVE Music Fest Facebook page.

A portion of the 100 bands. Photo from MOVE Music Fest Facebook page.

Truthfully, I picked up a lot of useful social media tips from my internship with Global Yodel last summer. Social media management is exciting but still demanding work. I thought it was just fun and games but I’ve learned my lesson! The planning that goes behind all of it can be intense especially when the media team is very small.

Another note on Global Yodel. After I wrapped up my internship they offered me the chance to start a new feature on the site. Band interviews! I said hell yes because a) I’ve always wanted to get into interviewing bands and b) I really wanted to stay a part of Global Yodel since I loved it so much. So far I’ve interviewed two awesome bands and because Global Yodel’s philosophy is that locals know their cities better than any travel writer, getting the perspective of a city through the eyes of a band that lives in it is a fun spin on things. Take a look at my two interviews below!

A Guide to Brooklyn with Ra Ra Riot

A Guide to Cape Town with Beatenberg

So, I graduate in May. Some days that feels far off and other days the reality of it hits me harder than I’d like it to. The job hunt is stressful and it’s made me realize I need to pick up more skills. My first couple years of college were so writing and reporting focused while my last two were very oriented towards online media and social media, including blogging. I feel like I’ve lost touch with the writing side of me. It’s been ages since I’ve written a proper journalistic piece. While I don’t think I’ll ever be a reporter in the true sense of the word, I do still want to keep writing. I also need to get back into blogging. Brainstorming interesting blog topics is something that takes time though. But I’m working on it. If you read this far, thank you and leave me a comment saying hi!

See you around, folks.

Don’t Look Away, Part Two: Stay Humble

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I think about this a lot. How some of us have so much and others have so little. By “have” I mean material possessions, health and health care, jobs, a roof over their head and food to keep them full.

I recently watch an amazing New York Times video profiling a ambulance worker fighting Ebola in Monrovia. The images in that video are raw, scary and 100% a reality that I can’t imagine living in. Families who live in stone huts. Villages with no running water. Women burying their relatives stricken with Ebola.

Something as simple as a hearty meal in my house or my warm bed after a long day make me very grateful and spark one thought, always: I do not take this for granted. I never have and I hope I never will.

Stay humble, folks.

The Magical Number of Social Networking

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Don’t believe people when you see they have 2,000 friends on Facebook. They’re not fooling anyone.

In 1992, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar stated that as humans our brains can only connect to 150 people with whom we can have meaningful relationships. Any more than that and they just become blurry faces.

Image courtesy of pazarlamasyon.com

Image courtesy of pazarlamasyon.com

The number 150 is now called Dunbar’s Number. I recently stumbled on this information while reading a book for a journalism class.

The book (Tom Standage’s “Writing on the Wall”) mentioned how Dunbar’s Number is used in all kinds of social groups, like the military.

“The Dunbar Number is also the typical size of a military company, which generally includes between 120 and 180 individuals. A company in which everyone knows everyone else is a much more effective fighting unit.”

The same number can be found throughout history. From animal packs to Native American tribes. In an interview for NPR, Dunbar explains that the reason 150 is the optimal number for a community comes from our primate ancestors because “in smaller groups, primates could work together to solve problems and evade predators.”

While doing some further research on Dunbar’s Number I learned of Path, a mobile photo-sharing and messaging service founded in 2010 which build its “friending” around Dunbar’s Number. Path limits its users to 150 friends. Damn.

Would ditching Facebook and signing up on Path make your social networking experience more enjoyable? Think about it. No longer would you have to scroll past incessant posts about babies, pets and weddings. No longer would you have to read what Susie had for breakfast or that Kevin totally killed it at the gym today.

But then….where does (professional) networking fit in? Aren’t acquaintances sometimes beneficial? Don’t they sometimes turn into friends?

In terms of networking, quantity is usually “the bigger, the better”.

In an article on Social Media Today, writer Jacob Morgan brings to attention the words of Morten Hansen, the author of Collaboration. Hansen’s opinion on networking and social relationships is that weak social relationships are better than strong ones. He says:

“Weak ties are more helpful in networking, [they] form bridges to worlds we do not walk within.  Strong ties, on the other hand, tend to be worlds we already know; a good friend often knows many of the same people and things we know.  They are not the best when it comes to searching for new jobs, ideas, experts, and knowledge.”

It’s odd to think that your “strong” ties won’t get you anywhere but the guy you met once at an office party might hook you up with your next job. That actually happened to me but in my case it was an alumni from my university who came to speak to a small group of journalism students about portfolio building…and a year later she was the one I contacted about getting an internship at a local paper (which I got).

Dunbar’s Number is not a good idea when it comes to networking but I like how accurate it is in describing our “friending” patterns. After reading about this I checked how many Facebook friends I had and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it was 141.

So, I have a question for you. What if Facebook asked you to go through your contacts and delete your “friends” until you reached the 150 max. Who would make the cut?