Stephanie Kocer

Writer. Editor. Grad Student.

One Semester Down

As of Friday at 8 a.m. I finished my first semester of grad school! I submitted my first-ever seminar paper and survived peer editing in the process. 

I need a nap. And I want to know what’s next.

I keep telling myself it’s time to relax. I don’t start the spring semester until mid-January. I have some free time to do whatever I want with. But I’m not sure if I remember how to relax.

It seems like I have some existential stress about what I should be doing to prep for the next step after the Masters. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have no idea what that next step is. And I hate not knowing the future.

I have a real anxiety when it comes to the future. I think it may be a Millennial condition. I’m working hard to get the job I think I want and deserve, but sometimes it’s hard to picture what that might look like because it’s, you know, in the future. And I know there’s absolutely nothing I can do about this. Man, it’s annoying, though.

Being someone who is very Type A when it comes to my school and professional life, it’s hard to relax. Having nothing to do makes me feel like I should be getting something done. Of course, it is the holidays and I have a lot to stress over. I need to fill out Christmas cards, make cookies, and make sure I have all the presents wrapped. These are trivial things, but they do help distract me from worrying about post-Masters life. And let’s be honest, I love the holidays.

This is all ahead of my 27th birthday in a few weeks. Why does it feel like turning 27 is the launch into real adulthood? A lot of this is all in my head, but I’m sure a lot of others in my position feel the same way. And there is some comfort in that.

For now, I’ll just drink cocoa, do some reading for pleasure, and watch JTT in “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” on Disney+.

Workshop Guilt

Another week, another grad school high and low. This week I rediscovered the joys and complete terrors of peer editing. If you’re like me, your writing process is word vomit until you can’t word vomit anymore, then edit the hell out of it. I usually have my best ideas while writing. I discover things as I go.

When it comes to editing my classmates’ work I tend to take the approach of saying two encouraging things for every critical thing. No idea is a dumb one. I like to ask a lot of questions that might help someone expand on their ideas. In the past I might have also not cared that much if classmates succeed or failed in their writing . But now I need to practice what it might be like to one day have students who want my feedback and need guidance in their own writing process.

For class, we have to peer edit a paper proposal and a draft of our final seminar paper with a small group of classmates. It was difficult for me to turn in a proposal because I knew I would discover more of my paper direction during the actual writing process. But I turned it in anyway and got some interesting feedback from my group. Continue reading

Note-Taking Works!

 

I’m really bad at taking notes. I don’t know how it happened. Quite honestly, you don’t really need to take notes in English. Or maybe you do and I’m just really bad at my chosen study?

Either way, I’ve been really bad at it this semester. It seems like every time I attempted to do it, I couldn’t find the right things to take note of. I underline things in texts that I find important and come back to them when I need to, but that hardly seems like taking notes does it? With my final seminar paper, I decided it was time to buckle down and use note-taking to my advantage. Especially since this is my first real grand school seminar paper. I needed to be prepared. Maybe even over-prepared. I needed to research outside sources that I found on my own! I needed to read them (skim) and pick out quotes that would aid me in my paper’s argument. Continue reading

Paper Proposals

 

I have two very specific obsessions as of late; “The Morning Show” and my seminar paper proposal. My two favorite things; writing papers and thinking about how underrated Jennifer Aniston is.

We’ve been watching “The Morning Show” an episode at a time, drawing out the already drawn out first three episodes of the show. For me, the semester seems to be taking forever to get to the next act as well. In my class we have to write a 20-page final seminar paper. It’s due during finals week in December, but first we must present a paper proposal our classmates edit, followed by turning in a draft for classmates to edit again, before turning in a final draft. This is my first official seminar paper of grad school. And it’s strangely terrifying.

Continue reading

I Decorated For the Holidays Early

My dad had a very strict rule growing up; we were not allowed to decorate for Christmas until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not a single light or ornament was to go up in the house before then. Holiday decorations in the stores? Look away. Early Black Friday ads in the local paper? Just throw them in the trash. This rule has stuck with me into adulthood. Don’t rush past November my dad would say. The holidays have become far too commercialized anyway.

But the best thing about being an adult is making your own decisions. Sorry, dad. I decorated for Christmas today. Continue reading

What I Learned This Week: Always Manage Your Time Wisely

I told you I would be trying to write more! When I sat down and really thought about it, I realized that I’m learning things in grad school every week. Sometimes I learn about politics and religion. Sometimes I learn about a new author. Sometimes I learn about a new way to analyze a text or a way to write the perfect paragraph talking about that text. Other days I learn I still have, well, a lot to learn. I’m still trying to get the online school thing just right. I struggle with feeling inferior to my classmates every day. I’m still terrible at note taking. But I’m learning.

What I was reminded of this week is that you have to always manage your time wisely.

Sure, that’s a given in most adult situations, but in grad school it takes on different meaning. The reason I learned about this phenomenon this week is because I found myself with too much time on my hands. With one of my classes already over for the semester, I only have one class left to work on. And with the month of November sneaking up on us, the semester is nearing it’s stressful end already. The only problem is this week my professor isn’t requiring our usual discussion assignment (I’m guessing she’s out of town at a conference) and the only thing I have to do right now is finish reading our last novel. Easy, right? Continue reading

What I’ve Learned in the First Semester of Grad School

As you can imagine, I am exhausted. Graduate school is everything everyone told me it would be and absolutely nothing like what anyone told me. I have late nights. I have stressful dread lines. I read constantly. I write constantly. I have group discussions over Google Hangouts and one-on-one video chats with professors at a time of night that works for both of our schedules.

And when I’m not doing those things I’m working full-time. Being an adult is hard. Being a working adult trying to earn another degree seems like a terrible idea. But, I have to admit something. I really love it.

I love talking to like-minded people who love literature as much as I do. I love coming home from a long day of work and writing a paper or reading half of a novel. I feel more like myself when I do those things. Sure, it’s a lot of work, and I have no idea what I want to do after I finish the degree, but I feel more fulfilled than ever before. Continue reading

Here We Go Again

When I graduated from college I told myself I was done. I was burnt out. I didn’t want to see another assignment or read another book that I didn’t pick out myself ever again. I was going to have my 9 to 5 life and my free time back.

But the thing was, a year into working full-time in journalism I felt like there was something missing from my career. I still loved writing, but it no longer felt like I was being able to flex the right writing muscles. I got to read books again; books I had selected for myself! What was I missing?

It took me awhile to figure out that the thing I was missing was school. No matter how cool I try to be the truth is I’m a nerd. I love writing papers. I love being in class and discussing things written a hundred years ago. There’s something about that academic setting, how literature can lead to a discussion about culture and politics that made me want to stay in school forever. So that became the new goal.

My fondest memories of undergrad studies were spent in English classes discussing In Cold Blood and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. I wanted to have those discussions all over again. But this time I wanted to be leading them.

Maybe I would become an English professor.

It wasn’t an easy conclusion to come to. And I truthfully didn’t know much about how someone actually becomes a professor. So the research began, casually at first then more serious, looking into schools. Then I had to be realistic. I couldn’t just quit my job to do a doctorate. And what if I got there and discovered I was wrong and I hated it? Would I be stuck? And most importantly, how the hell was I going to pay for another degree? Continue reading

“When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Running”

Blind Runner Completes Boston Marathon, Encourages Others with Disabilities to Get Out of Their Comfort Zones

I thought I would share an article I wrote at work. There’s a lot of terrible news out there on the daily. I feel lucky enough to work for an organization that helps tell stories about the good in the world. It was an honor to get to write about Rachel and her incredible journey. We can all learn a little something from her.

 

Why ‘The Dirt’ is Better Than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Look. I’m only going to say this one more time: “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not a good movie. It gave little to no thought to Freddie’s real truth and it tried to convince us that “We Will Rock You” was written in the 80s. What a bunch of Hollywood bullshit.

It’s too bad, because Queen is one of the most important, influential rock bands of our time. They deserved better. Freddie deserved better. “Bohemian Rhapsody” deserved Nikki Sixx.

 

“The Dirt” dropped on Netflix on last week. It tells the story of the most legendary dirtbag band of all time: Motley Crue. Based on their 2001 memoir of the same name, “The Dirt” explores the Crue’s rise to fame in the early 80s, their hard-partying, drug use, and girls, girls, girls. And I’m happy to report that “The Dirt” is a far better biopic than “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

 

Now before I really get going into hair metal fangirl gush mode, let’s state the obvious. Queen was a far better, far more important band than Motley Crue in terms of influence, art, and their lasting affect on pop culture. Motley Crue has their triumphant moments (hello “Wild Side”), but their music was still just hair metal. Popular, of course. But more brawn than brains.

Continue reading

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