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June 23, 2008

Trayton White '08

I have been working on this blog entry for about 2 months, and it has taken a great deal of effort to finish it even now. For some odd reason, my post-graduation experience has been filled with events making me feel like I am on some sort of weird life roller coaster. For this first blog, I decided to include a couple of detailed stories of my adventures as a Wabash College graduate.

As a brief overview, the weeks between graduation and my anticipated start date at an office job were filled with a lot of activities. Immediately following my last final, I headed towards Tennessee to move my grandparents back to my hometown of Bluffton, Indiana. The trip had the typical hiccups resulting in a broken down semi, renting of two U-Haul trucks, trailer and a car hauler, and me arriving home two days behind schedule. In addition to helping move my grandparents, I helped move a fraternity brother’s stuff from Crawfordsville to Chicago–fortunately, this trip had no mishaps and was quite uneventful.

I also kept busy assisting my wife with the planning for our wedding, which successfully took place on June 7th in Panama City Beach, FL. My important tasks included stamping RSVP cards and sticking address labels on envelopes. In between all these other tasks, I decided to take advantage of my situation and do something I will likely never have the opportunity to do again–farm.

Every May, my dad takes about a week and a half off of work to help a family friend get corn planted in time so it will be ready for harvesting in the fall. They needed extra help this year, and I enjoyed having the chance to work outdoors for a few weeks. To begin, a farmer’s day is much longer than a typical day. I found it odd that I would be out at the field by 8 in the morning and would be over 3 hours late. I am not sure how this happens, but it has something to do with taking advantage of every single bit of daylight you can by foregoing as much sleep as you can.

During my month of farming, I learned that this lifestyle can be dull at times, but somehow can keep me captivated and unaware that I had been driving a tractor for 12 hours. Things break and you have to fix them. Machinery gets clogged and you have to dig out whatever is stopping them from working. And the rain comes… And it goes. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent in the tractor cab working the ground, waiting to get married, and start my new job.

Unlike the typical fairy tale, my wedding did not end with “And they lived happily ever after…” As I said before, I was getting married on Saturday, June 7th in PCB.  My job was expected to start on June 16th. Doing the math, my wife and I decided to move into an apartment before we got married in order to get everything settled, enjoy a week-long honeymoon, and then return the Saturday before, ready to start work. The Monday before we got married, we moved into an apartment.  Everything went great–we even went out to dinner to celebrate.

On Wednesday, I was packing for Florida and the honeymoon when I received what I would think is one of the worst calls a soon-to-be husband can receive: the company I was working for wasn’t going to honor my start date. Even worse, they could not give me a definite start date in the future. Here I was: a fresh graduate, about to get married, and no job.

The week before my wedding was very stressful. Not because of the wedding, but because I was in a frantic dash trying to get my resume to as many people as I could before I went away to the Smoky Mountains–far removed from any form of communication. Fortunately I contacted the Career Services department within minutes of receiving that unfortunate phone call. They were a tremendous help to me and offered up plenty of job opportunities that I had a shot at getting.

When I originally agreed to blog for The Graduate, I figured I would be providing funny anecdotes of being a newlywed and sharing stories about office life. I guess for now, my first entry will end with advice about how to handle being fired, laid off, or whatever else you want to call it.

My best piece of advice–be professional. On a couple of different occasions, representatives of my former employer contacting me about severance stuff have commented on my level of professionalism. Besides the big boost to the self-esteem, these compliments also mean that if I choose to attempt to again work for that company, I have not burned any bridges that would prevent me from doing so.

One might ask how you “be professional.” For a Wabash gentleman, this is easy and should come naturally. You are courteous. You don’t argue. You don’t yell at people–especially the ones bearing the bad news since they likely had nothing to do with the decision. You especially don’t “dirty rush” the company when you are talking to other employers. All these things seem like common sense when you read them now, but I can tell you it takes a conscious effort to prevent your emotions from getting the best of you.

As I am writing this, I am preparing for interviews with a couple of strong leads. I hope my next entry will consist of what I originally thought my blogs would be about.

June 19, 2008

Alex Loucks '08

Back in December or so Betsy and Scott had asked me to write for “The Graduate” blog and as a good student I agreed; but until now I didn’t have a lot to write about.  So my first post will be a summation of the summer until now and my search for an apartment.

My summer started with an apartment search in the Chicago land area where I will be working for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) starting in July.  Thinking that I was searching for a place within a moderate time frame for landlords, I started my search about 45 days before I wanted to move and I looked at places in the city and the suburbs (where I will be working).  Unfortunately the trip just became an expensive search for food because all of the property management companies and private landlords do not post listings more than 30 days in advance.

In late May I returned to the scene better prepared and more stressed than the previous trip.  I spent one frantic day looking at place after place of overpriced dingy, poorly managed, and small apartments until I found the small one bedroom, two miles from work, and more importantly in my price range.

After seeing this place I worked frantically with the nervous-private landlord to close the deal before I left for Montana two days later.  Even though I had all of my references together and sent to the landlord that night I was still skeptical of whether I would get the apartment.  Before I heard much from the landlord, I was on a plane to Montana where I would not have email contact or cell phone reception for the first two weeks of June.  Luckily, the landlord flaked-out before she went on a two week vacation at the same time I was in Montana.  For two crucial weeks the apartment leasing process was put on hold with me getting more nervous by the day.  The Montana trip gave me a chance to forget about the apartment search and clear my head of the mess that was my post graduate life.

The reason I was in Montana for two weeks was to help build a straw bale house on the Northern Cheyenne reservation with The Red Feather Development Group.  This opportunity was presented and sponsored by HonorRoll Online (www.honorrollonline.com) (if you don’t know what this is talk to Betsy or Scott).  HonorRoll paid for my airfare, participation fees, and setup my travel arrangements for the two weeks.  I wanted to go on this trip to see part of the country I had not traveled and to give a helping hand to those in need.

Red Feather Development Group (www.redfeather.org) is an organization that builds sustainable homes for Native Americans, mainly on the Northern Cheyenne and Hopi Reservations.  The building materials are funded by the eventual home owner and the home is constructed by volunteers directed by Red Feather staff members.  Currently Red Feather is building two homes a year, one on the Northern Cheyenne and one on the Hopi Reservation.

Over my two week exposure to Red Feather I made a bunch of new friends, learned a lot about Native American culture and ways of life, and connected with people from all over the U.S. with similar interests and passions for helping people.  During my stay we experienced some of the worst weather that Red Feather had seen during a build and the project was set back by 5 days. 

Even though the weather was bad for the two weeks, volunteer spirit remained high and the days we could build we worked from dawn until dusk to try to catch up with the delays.  Though we weren’t able to make up for time lost, we still had fun, accomplished a lot, and left our two weeks of volunteering with a house standing with a roof.  The project will take another two weeks to complete all of the finishing work with new appliances donated from an assortment of large corporations and a beautiful timber framed porch provided by the local Amish community.

Returning from the Montana reality set in and the calendar started moving closer to a move-in date.  Thankfully my future landlord, the nervous lady who flaked-out on me, returned my barrage of phone calls and emails to inform me that I would be able to rent the condo from her.  My life then settled back into a lull of Midwestern gardening and preparation for the move to my new place.

I’m now excited to get started working mainly because I am broke with student loans getting ready to start repayment and to have something to do besides being my parents’ gardener.  If all goes as planned I will be writing a blog every month or so as I get settled in a new career and a new life.  To try and make the blog interesting I will do my best at describing every bloody detail of the life changing experiences and mistakes I am bound to encounter as I move and travel for the next year.