Failure to understand

[Warning: this post is really, really long. I’ve broken it up into sections in hopes of making it less of an overwhelming chunk.]

The short version of this story is that pretty much everything I’ve been working towards for three years and everything that’s really important to me about college just fell completely apart. But here’s the long version if you dare undertake to read it.

The internship problem

I decided at the beginning of my sophomore year that I was going to graduate early. In working towards that, I have taken a full 18 units every semester, and I’ve had to work, so my college experience thus far has kept me in a constant state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. I’ve had to sacrifice many opportunities for the sake of being responsible, and I’ve missed out on forming a lot of deep friendships because I simply haven’t had the time. It’s been miserable, if I’m being perfectly honest. I certainly wouldn’t call my time in college “fun,” and I don’t know that I can say I’ve even gotten that much out of it, because I’m always struggling to stay on top of my to-do list and too stressed out to enjoy or learn from things that I should have enjoyed or learned from. I can’t even really say that I’ve felt fulfilled in my major, since Biola’s journalism department focuses almost solely on writing for newspapers, whereas I want to edit for a literary or features-focused magazine.

And then other things started happening.

I needed one unit’s worth of internship credit this summer in order to graduate. I could have earned the three units I needed through my internship last summer easily — I worked more than enough hours — but my advisor told me not to take all my credits from one internship because the department strongly encourages interning at least twice, and many places won’t accept interns who aren’t getting college credit.

My first choice for getting that last unit was with my school’s alumni magazine. It would have been perfect first because it’s a magazine, which is the area of journalism I’m most interested in; secondly, because it paid; and thirdly, because it’s on campus, which I need since I don’t have a car out at school. I had a strong application and a great interview, but ultimately, didn’t land it. I asked the editor if there was something I could do to make myself a better applicant to future jobs, and he told me he had no suggestions and that the only reason why he turned me down was because I couldn’t start immediately (which was so I could give two weeks’ notice at my other job, although if I’d known that was the only thing working against me, my bosses probably would have been understanding enough to let me leave right away). Oh the irony of being rejected because I was responsible…

My second choice would have been a summer internship out in California, since the journalism internships in Colorado are sparse, but there was no way I could afford either the living expenses or a car to get myself to an internship in the first place.

My third choice was Colorado Springs’ local newspaper. I spent hours on my application, only to learn that they were only taking interns for their sports section, and they would hire that intern through an organization for aspiring sports journalists (which they failed to mention on their website).

My fourth choice was to try to snag the intern position at Biola Magazine in the fall, which would have been tricky with my schedule, but I knew I was qualified and that I’d have plenty of time to take care of leaving my current job. I emailed the editor to see if they would need an intern, telling him that I need one more internship in order to graduate in December and that I’d love to get that last credit with the magazine. I never received a response, and less than 24 hours later I found out that the girl who got the position this semester had been asked later that same day to stay on in the fall.

My fifth and last choice was a lifestyle magazine up in Denver. I labored over my resume and clips and cover letter and followed up faithfully after I sent everything in. After a month and a half of waiting, this morning I got an email that contained the word “unfortunately.”

The “everything else related to my academic life” problem

That email came four hours after an email from my Torrey mentor of three years, in which he shared that this semester will be his last. This is the person who has listened to me through countless office visits that I spent sharing how much I was struggling with everything from my notes to my health issues, who has guided me through all six semesters of my time in college and in Torrey, who is largely responsible for helping me learn how to think well, and who helped me mature from a slightly-better-than-average writer to a strong and confident one. Now I’m abruptly, unexpectedly, going to have build a relationship with another mentor all over again with only one semester left in Torrey, which is a challenge and a frustration the significance of which only other Torrey students will understand.

And all of this comes after finding out that I’m going to have to drop the only class I’ve really, truly wanted to take and cared about in order to take a class that I not only don’t care about, but really don’t want to take. The class I wanted to take was a special class on fantastical literature and film, led by the head of the Torrey program. This is the first and only chance I’ve ever had, will ever have, to take one of these special classes, and I was one of 18 students accepted out of the 50 who applied. The class that’s forcing me to drop the other one isn’t even something I’m required to take, but is the only class that I can substitute for another class that I need but will not be offered for the third semester in a row.

Since my original plan for the rest of my time in school has been officially thwarted, my ideal alternative would be to accept that I’m not going to graduate in the fall and give myself an easier semester, taking only 15 units in the fall (four of which would be my senior thesis, which doesn’t require actual class time and which I’m really looking forward to writing, and another four of which would come from the class I really want to take), and then in the spring taking that one last class, hopefully interning somewhere to get my last unit, and working another job (off-campus, since I wouldn’t be able to keep my current job as only a part-time student) if I weren’t able to find a paid internship. If I did this, even though not graduating when I’ve been trying to would be disappointing, I think I’d be happier and healthier for that semester than I’ve ever been throughout my other three years at Biola. Also, even if I couldn’t get an internship at all in the spring, I’d have a few extra weeks to get one in the summer, since spring graduates are allowed to walk with 6 units outstanding, an allowance fall graduates don’t have.

The money problems/what now?

Plan B isn’t an option, however, because of money. Biola’s tuition is $1,200 per unit, so that would be $4,800 my family would have to find somewhere to cover a 3-unit class and one unit of internship credit, since my financial aid won’t apply if I’m not full-time. I’d also need a car so I could find an off-campus job to pay rent on the house I’ll be living in, and we can’t even afford that, much less a car and a few extra grand in tuition. One unit of internship credit and a car will still be difficult to pay for, but more doable than four units and a car, so my only option is to put myself through yet another grueling semester, even though I won’t be able to graduate at the end of it, and pray that I’m able to make something work out with an internship and a car in the spring.

There are small things that I’m thankful for in this. It’s a blessing that I’m at home on spring break and that Mark is here while I’m watching all my plans and expectations fall to pieces. There’s a small chance we might be able to figure out the money so that I can make my Plan B work, and if we can, that might actually be better for me than my Plan A. So many things are going wrong all at once that I know it has to be God preparing me for something better, or giving me a chance to grow by learning to let go of my expectations, or forcing me to slow down a bit so I can be a healthier person.

But still, I can’t deny that right now, I’m frustrated. I’m hurt. I’m confused. I’m anxious. I’m disappointed. I’m overwhelmed. I feel like a failure. I’m questioning and doubting my whole college career. And I have no idea where I’m supposed to go from here.

Failure to understand

6 thoughts on “Failure to understand

  1. My parents have some friends in Martinez, CA (6 hours north of La Mirada). It’s a long-shot, but if you could snag an internship up there they might be able to put you up.

    Also, have you considered taking out a loan for your Plan B last semester? It’s definitely not ideal, and I don’t know what your financial situation is like, but $4,800 in loans is a lot better than most private school grads walk away with.

  2. I wish I could offer some words of comfort to you! Don’t hate me about the magazine! The only thing I can offer you is prayer, and I will definitely be praying for you. I kind of went through the same thing at the end of last semester. I planned to graduate early as well, but God turned those plans upside down! While going through all of the uncertainty, I learned to give it to God. All of it. I learned that when I try to make my own plans, they usually fail. But, it turns out so much better God’s way even though it’s hard to give up control. He does have something great in store for you, and it will turn out OK in the end. I’ll be praying!

  3. Bethany, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while at Biola, it’s that God is faithful. I don’t know what that looks like for you right now, but trust that God will carry you through whatever needs to be done. Maybe that means going out on a limb and trusting that God will provide. Maybe it means trusting that God will give you the strength to go through another ridiculously stressful semester. I’m not sure.
    I’m a fan of Plan B, and if you need someone to go door-to-door and ask for money, I will do that. We got Heddwyn to Uganda and we kept Sarah from getting kicked out. And I’m fine with you sleeping on my couch if you can’t pay rent. ;) Also, even when people haven’t gone door-to-door, I’ve seen countless people stay at Biola when they thought they were going to have to leave, including myself. <3

  4. Be encouraged that your heart is in the right place. You’re trusting God, and you’re dealing honestly with the way you feel. As Robynne said, God is faithful to His own, and He will not fail you. And as long as you’re doing those two things, it means that you are where He wants you.

  5. Heidi Addington says:

    Bethany, have you considered just staying a full-time student both semesters? Depending what kind of financial aid you get at full-time, that could make it worth it. Plus you’ll definitely be able to keep the Writing Center position for spring semester. You can take 12 units in fall, making you life even easier than 15 units, and in spring add a couple of easy classes to keep you at 12 units also, so your scholarships will still apply.
    I’m assuming it’s too late to get the alumni magazine job? If not, I’m sure dr. malandra would be understanding that you need to leave the wc a few weeks early. although we’d be sad to lose you.

  6. tayte rian says:

    I have nothing to offer to console you.
    Except that you’re the most eloquent writer I know. And you really really really deserve an internship or a job that appreciates you and your abilities.
    I’m hoping for you.

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