Careful – a cautionary tale of fitting in – TattoosandTarts style.

I started my graduate process officially 3 years ago, but before that I had anticipated graduate school pretty much right after I graduated with my undergraduate degree.  I loved my undergraduate economics department so I made the simple (if not lazy) choice to just go back to the department I was so fond of.

Graduate school was hard.  I’m talking about days when I couldn’t even understand material and therefore questioned my whole purpose and place in economics.  There were weeks of time, specifically, when I did NOT pass an Advanced Microeconomics class that made me feel like I was dying mentally and physically.  My ‘academic’ ego was so damaged during this time that I even contemplated if I could finish the program.  I was really hard on myself about this too.  I had never ever done poorly in school and to not pass a class was devastating.  Never mind the fact I was working at a very demanding start up oil and gas company, starting my serious relationship with The Dude, and trying to give 100% in every area – feeling like I was half-assing it all.

I did ‘alright’ in most of the classes and really well in less than a handful.  Classes were tough, the material was sometimes written in a special economics code that I could not decipher without looking at it for days or weeks sometimes, and I made it harder by not blending in to the academic economics culture.  My ‘re-do’ of the Adv. Micro class resulted in an A for me and a much better relationship with my graduate peers, professors, and my academic self.  I also quit my job and focused on school like I should have done to begin with. But, fitting-in made the difference.

This is the thing I have regrets about.  “Fitting in”  – I’ve never really fit in anywhere.  High School? Nope.  Undergraduate? Had a ton of great awesome friends, but didn’t really have ‘place’.  Hair School?  Definitely not – but everyone at hair school is an example of not fitting in.  I waltzed into graduate orientation with my ‘hair stylist’ attitude – tattoos showing, alternative thinking, and damn proud to rub ‘my identity’ in anyone’s face.  That, with working and not physically being able to be at school to ‘bond’ led me to be alone.  This stunk because I wasn’t there for the ‘break-thru’ mind melding sessions that allowed everyone else to do WAY better than me.  There were two professors that understood me and knew my potential and my background – the others I had never taken a class with and my demeanor or perhaps my gender made them standoffish and not approachable for me.  This made things really hard.  I could pout even more and say they discriminated me because of my tattoos, my gender, and my lifestyle, but I isolated and discriminated myself.  If I had ‘toned’ down my identity and censored certain parts of my life, I probably would have finished graduate school in 2 years instead of a grueling never-ending 3.  I know what you’re thinking – ‘whatever if they don’t accept you then forget them’  well that kind of thinking doesn’t apply to the people who determine your academic future.  It also doesn’t apply to your employer and ultimately I am glad I learned this hard lesson of censorship in school and not by being ‘discriminated’ against at a job.

I have learned to censor my life and leave some things hidden and secret – no one at work knows I’m heavily tattooed and I like it that way.  There are not assumptions made (good or bad), comments made, or incidents that could be avoided if I had just toned it down.  I don’t feel like I am pretending to be someone else – or hiding my true identity.  I’m simply ‘fitting-in’ – now don’t worry I’m not going to start shopping at Ralph Lauren or Abercrombie anytime soon, but it’s nice to fit in with your professional peers. It’s easy.

I spent two and a half years being angry at graduate school culture, but ultimately I was mad that I could have done something to change it instead of feel like I was suffering.  We have choices we can make to make our lives easier and harder. In my field of work, alternative lifestyles are not normal or easy to lead successfully in the open.  This may change, it may not.  But, I know that by not being so loud my life, my potentials are no longer limited.  Plus when the whistle blows, I can take off my sweater and proudly show my beautiful tattoos and be me without sacrificing the career potentials for a rare tattooed-crafter-blogger-furmama-goofball economist like me.

What a wonderful weekend!  I flew into Denver

What a wonderful weekend!  I flew into Denver for a few days for my big thesis defense!  I was pretty nervous because I didn’t have the proper time to prep for my powerpoint before actually leaving on Thursday night.  I arrived late and my dad and his wife picked me up – while waiting at the arrivals area I saw this funny guy with his abacus I wonder what was going on with that aside from the obvious.  After visiting with my parents I crashed hard and woke up at 5am Denver time to finish putting together my presentation and practicing it.  I have to awkwardly practice aloud in order to ‘get comfortable’ with saying phrases and having a general ‘schpeel’ – my dad’s cats were not amused with my presentation for them at 6am.  Until I realized my fancy presentation remote had a built in laser – then I gained their undivided attention.

I plan on writing a post when I have my diploma about my graduate process and thesis journey, but briefly I’ll discuss the defense.  I had three amazingly brilliant women committee members all with an interest and background in feminism.  Needless to say, they proceeded to point out that I ‘tip-toed’ around the gender issues in my paper – which is 100% true.  I’ve had trouble ‘owning’ the feminist literature I have read and it was difficult to convey that I felt comfortable with it as it is pretty overwhelming.  But, thank God/goddess/the stars, I passed with minor revisions.  This means I just have to add about 4 very small comments/statements to my paper and then I can submit it to the graduate office and I am finally a master of economics (ha).

After my defense I saw my mom for lunch and saw her new office and said hello to a lot of old co-workers that I love.  I worked as an intern in my mom’s office all through high school and undergrad and these people watched me grow up.  One very funny comment one of the guys made was that for a time he would always hear my mom saying ‘oh for god’s sake Brianna!’ I had some tumultuous years and believe me everyone knew what I was up to! 

Then I saw the lovely, Amanda Anderson at Thompson & Co salon in the Washington Park neighborhood.  I decided after catching a glimpse of my hair in the mirror last week that it had to go.  So I just gave her the general length requirements and let her do her thang.  She did the best job and I have gotten compliments from literally everyone on it.  Even all my co-workers had to come and see me once they heard I chopped off my hair.  It was bizarre having such a major change after so long of not really doing anything exciting with my hair.  (Those hair school days seem like another life sometimes)

That night we watched Django – it was really good.  The Dude has been refusing to watch it because he says ‘he’s not ready.’  I’m not sure what that means, but it definitely is a movie you have to be prepared for.  I’m a Tarantino fan though so it was another one I’ll add to my fan-boy list.

Saturday as luck would have it, Alisha Rice at Th’ink Tank had a very last minute cancellation and was able to get me in to work on my ‘epical’ fantasy sleeve.  I don’t know what was going on, but I sat like a champion and was able to get about 5 hours in and finished a lot of the tattoo.  My arm is very very swollen and swore today.  I always heal my tattoos with Saran Wrap and it makes it easier/more comfortable for me to ‘go on’ with life.  I had so much fun talking to Alisha for the whole afternoon and now I’m a lot closer to finishing this enormous project on my arm.

Then I met up with a wonderful friend for a very tasty cocktail at PF Changs – we were in the suburbs at Belmar so don’t be judging me about drinking there. It was great to catch up, but I realized I do miss so many of my friends from Denver.  More of you Denver peeps will be required to come out now so I can show you Chicago!

Sunday I said goodbye to my Poppop and met up with my mama for some great family Mother’s Day feasting.  My plane was delayed about half and hour, but I met some really awesome people on the flight home.  I was seated in business class last minute and it was AWESOME.  Monday has been long and I cannot wait to climb into bed and snuggle with my family that I missed all weekend.