21 Mar

When Revs announced she was starting her SPIL series some time ago, I commented telling her I would take this up as well. No rules, no deadlines, no minimal number of posts ….sounds perfectly doable to me! So here’s the first one.

I landed in the US, about two weeks before grad school began with the sole purpose of finding a campus job to cover my living expenses. A tuition waiver was out of question for a Masters program, so at best it would have to be an  hourly paid odd job around campus for 20 hours a week. I had heard stories about cafeteria jobs, tutoring jobs and jobs at the sports department which involved field set up for football games (you atleast got to hang out with hot jocks in this one!) – it was all such a wild bag of random tasks that I didn’t know what to expect before I actually found one. I spent my first week in the US, going to each campus building trying to find some job to do. Sadly it appeared that the jobs were either all taken or eliminated all together with shrinking budgets.

Finally, during a grad student orientation, a nice looking lady came to talk to us about the student services around campus – the police department, the health center, the transportation department and so on. She ended with saying that she  needed a student assistant who could write to help her maintain the website and run newsletters. Perfect! This job had my name written all over it. I barely remember what else they spoke to us about during that session – I was euphoric that I had identified the perfect job. Immediately afterwards, I hastily searched through my writing samples – small stuff like school magazine editor, college magazine contributions, some short stories published in a local magazine  and other crap and made copies . I took my resume and the writing samples to meet this lady, M. She was super sweet and oohed and ahhed over my application. When she learnt my major was not computer science though and that I had no website design experience, she sadly said she couldn’t give me the job. Her past student assistant (also desi) could write beautifully plus he managed the website and both skills were neededb for this jo. Oh well, so that job was not to be then. She did get my name and email address though as I left.

I put the whole incident behind me and found a random job entering work orders in the facilities department a few days later. The job was as dull as the day, but it paid the bills and was atleast indoors in the crisp fall that was slowly turning into a cold-for-me-from-the-tropics-winter.  And besides it was the only thing I found anyway, so what choice was there. (I need to do a complete post about the struggles of grad student life, but that’s another story) . Anyway, about a semester into my job, I got an email from M, saying she wanted to meet me again. So I stopped by least expecting to hear this was about the same job. Surprise – the computer science student she had picked was awful at wriiting and she had decided to sack him.  She had decided she wanted to hire someone who had the writing skills ,rather than the website design ones , which could be picked up fairly easily on the job. Yeah for me! Oh and this new gig paid about 1.5 times as much as my old one and made complete financial sense to take. I quit my Faciltiies department job on the same day and started work with M in her administrative department.

The department had four lovely ladies. There was R, the impeccably dressed , president of Auxilary services who was M’s boss. She had an air about her and I think M and the other ladies were a tad bit scared around her. But the few times she spoke to me during those first few months, I realized that she had a soft , kind heart despite the harsh facade her position sometimes demanded of her. There was then sweet and extremely efficient W, who was in R’s secretary. Brisk, to the point and supremely good at her organizing. There was B, the finance director , who I had my first actual managing your finances talk with in life . B was a whiz at math and numbers in general and the most academically inclined of the four women. She had a great deal of interest in my courses and career path.

And then finally the lady who hired me , M. M was such an interesting character. A little scatter brained , pouring out the random thoughts in her head,messy desk , messy office, great copy writer – catching the minutest of punctuation errors (wish I had learnt a little more from her there), great listener and super good at getting people around her to open up (this skill I did pick up a little for some interviews I did for the newsletter), online shopping addict, successful weight watchers program graduate, These are the only tit bits I remember now, from 8 years ago but you get the gist. She had two older kids in their twenties – a boy and a girl. They had moved out a few years ago and she was happily married to a man, who’s name totally escapes me now, but who she constantly referred to in all our conversations.So I gathered that they were happily married, empty nesters. M did these unexpected kind things that a mere boss need not have done for an International graduate student she saw just a few hours each week. She got me pecan pie back from Thanksgiving celebrrations at home and always saved me some carrot cake with cheesecake frosting  from department meetings that she attended. We grew closer over time .  She showed me every package of shoes and clothes that arrived for her from her online shopping sprees and asked me for my opinion.

I usually worked 3-4 hours a day and I started off with a chat with M – it was always supposed to be a quick chat, but it never was. We would usually start off with some article planning, theme picking , brainstorming for the newsletter and then go off on tangents to talk about random things. This was the phase that my parents disapproved totally of the then boyfriend(now the Husbadoo) and I finally had someone to talk to about my amazing boyfriend. I was somehow a little ashamed to bleat out my entire story of the parental disapproval, so did not venture into that conversation but instead spoke of the fun times we had shared during recent visits. She on her part like all typical American parents , offered nothing but her whole hearted admiration that we were in a  long distance relationship.

Regarding the job itself, I loved the actual interviewing and article writing for the newsletter – interviewing the campus employee of the month, attending the random celebratory ceremonies, interviewing nurses in the health clinic, talking to the police department about new safety measures. I was given a small recording device to use during these interviews and it helped me to finish churning out articles at top speed for several months in advance. I then spent the rest of the time helping W with some organizing work or other random tasks around the department. In those  stressful times with nasty roommates and other stress, my campus job was my escape and I enjoyed every minute spent in that office.

I had a summer internship planned in another city and wondered in M would hold my job for me to return to my final semester. I needn’t have worried at all – she agreed to do that without a second thought. So I wasn’t with her that Summer, but I returned for my final semester the next fall. I remember her excitement at having me back and she asked me a million questions about the summer and the city that I was in.  We then planned for my final semester. This one was when I had several interviews lined up for jobs upon graduation , and I shared all the details with M. She was especially interested in what I would be wearing for the interviews and pushed me to splurge on a new suit at Macys . She listened to all the details post – interview and when the offers were made, she asked me to talk to B about the right financial and investment decisions that I would be faced with once I had an actual job. Once I did accept an offer, R , the main queen bee of the office, insisted that they all take me out to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory! On one of my final days at the campus job, just prior to graduation , M gave me a beautiful silver charm bracelet and we parted with many hugs and tears.

Sadly, we both are bad at keeping in touch. I did send her a wedding invite a few years later. I don’t think I ever told her about Bandar and I think i am going to send her an email this weekend with some pictures. She still seems to  be working in the same job so I can thankfully still reach out; Its funny that this short 9 month stint in that office, was the first SPIL bit that I immediately thought to share. Undoubtedly these women and M in particular, left a huge impact on my then 21 year old heart.


11 Responses to “SPIL 1”

  1. Revs March 21, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    🙂 M sounds lovely!! Thank God for such people eh? Especially during the student abroad stint, even the smallest of kind deeds makes such a

  2. Revs March 21, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    …… huge impact no? I’m so glad you had her and she, you. And thank you so much for taking this up 🙂 Yaaay!

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 21, 2015 at 8:27 am #

      This was fun , Revs. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop and it ended up being extra loooong. I have a few more mentally planned for this series. Thanks for think of it:)

  3. Ramesh March 21, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    Wonderful post! And ‘Soul Purpose’.. Just 😍 it! A post on Grad student life will be good to read!

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 22, 2015 at 1:39 am #

      Actual unintended typo that. Should have been sole but guess this pun worked out. Will change it now:)

  4. srividhya March 21, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Nice post..i worked as teaching assistant n intern. my grad stud life was totally different. I started when d kiddo was 6 months. 😉 😉 i quit my job did full time masters but was able to take care of my tuition. It’s bigggggg story. My life was a full on roller coaster ride.

    • popgoesthebiscuit March 22, 2015 at 1:38 am #

      How interesting , vidhya. I always thought the grass was greener for the married grad students, but guess I only saw what I wanted to see. Guess everyone has their own struggles!

  5. Dil On The Rocks March 23, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    Irs wonderful that you remember these experiences after these long years. 😊 It’s always wonderful to have someone who listens.

  6. My Era April 2, 2015 at 12:08 am #

    I like the idea of SPIL posts they are a great way to reminisce while inspiring the readers with interesting anecdotes 🙂
    You are one gifted writer, I could feel your worry, your troubled state and your exhilaration in your words 🙂
    Catching up with M with pictures of Bandar and more sounds like a wonderful idea 😀

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 2, 2015 at 2:02 am #

      You are too kind, ME! I am glad I did this SPIL post, made me realize that someone was super important to me at a specific time in my life.

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