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The Graduate

Fast Forward

Chelsea Baranoski
MSM Class of 2010

(May, 2011) "Life moves pretty fast. If you donít stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." It has been almost one year since my graduation from Mount St. Maryís University, and I have learned that Ferris Buellerís saying is definitely true. I feel like my life in the "real world" is moving in fast forward. Sometimes I wish that life had a rewind button so that I could go back to the peacefulness of Maryís Mountain and enjoy the little moments that I may have taken for granted: reading and analyzing literature, watching movies with my roommates, and strolling through the Mountís green campus.

In some ways, my life in the "real world" is not much different than my life at the Mount. One year ago, I was doing homework in a small apartment bedroom cluttered with paperbacks, textbooks, spiral notebooks, pens, and computer paper. Whenever I looked up from my laptop, I smiled at the cheery photographs of my friends that coated the walls. Today, my work atmosphere is not much different. The counter space of my cubicle at the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections is barely recognizable because it has so many documents strewn all over it. It looks like a tornado swept through and blew a million sheets of stark white computer paper and post-it notes all over. At least my red, black, and blue pens are organized in two Mount St. Maryís mugs. As was the case at the Mount, the more stressed out I feel, the messier my work environment becomes. Immediately after the Gubernatorial Elections, I found time to file my work and wipe down my cubicle with Clorox wipes. Now, my cubicle has become the victim of countless minutes, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and email print outs. Even though my cubicle looks like a tornado blew through, I can still click my ruby red heels and go back to the Mount in an instant. My cubicle is decorated with a Valentineís Day card from a roommate, a postcard of Mount St. Maryís, and pictures of my roommates and me from the Mountís Christmas dance and graduation. All of the Mount memories that now hang in my cubicle serve as my rewind buttons. Whenever I am the least bit nervous about an upcoming project or deadline, I look at my Mount memories and feel a sense of calm.

Sometimes, working at the Board of Elections reminds me of sitting in my English classes at the Mount. Part of my job is to write minutes for staff meetings. This means typing an endless supply of notes almost every day. The countless entries remind me of the notebooks filled with black and blue ink I have from my English classes. No matter which English classes I took, I always ended each one with a cramped hand and a notebook filled with writing.

The large amount of reading I do at work also reminds me of the pages and pages of reading I was assigned for my English classes. In one particular English class, I was assigned approximately 100 pages of reading for each class. I thought this was a crazy amount. After all, I had four other classes that required reading and writing assignments! I never thought that such a large amount of reading could be applied to real life. But then I entered the workforce. I have read hundreds of pages of material during the last month since I am a part of the revision team for our officeís SOPs. Recently, I finished reading and revising 85 pages of SOPs about processing statewide petitions. And the work isnít over yet! Detailed procedures must be written and revised for the Voter Registration Department, the Absentee Department, and the Election Worker Department. There are also SOPs that will be drafted for processing provisional ballots. The Mount definitely prepared me for the hours of reading, writing, and revising that lie ahead.

Working at the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections makes me feel like I traded places with one of my Mount English professors. All of a sudden, I am the person who revises the work of others. I have revised emails, letters, and procedures. I wield my red pen like it is a magic wand that dispels grammatical errors and formatting issues. Sometimes I feel like the "bad guy" because I mark up documents with so much red ink that one can barely tell that the page was white. It looks like ketchup was splattered all over and no one was generous enough to clean it up. I even had a discussion with one of my co-workers over comma usage. Indeed, I have felt like quite the English professor these last few months.

Busy. Busy. Busy. I always thought I was busy at the Mount; between class, work study in the library, working on the Mountís literary magazine, Lighted Corners, and participating in numerous clubs and organizations, I had little free time. I thought that some of the busyness would end with my final papers and exams. Little did I know that the "real world" brings a new level of busyness. I currently have over forty sets of minutes I need to write as well as all those SOPs I need to revise. Overtime is a pretty regular occurrence. And thatís just my job at the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections. Add to that a few weekend shifts at Aťropostale and one article a month for the "Emmitsburg News Journal." Donít get me wrong; I am not complaining. I am grateful for the opportunity to work and I like to be kept busy. However, sometimes the stress is a little overwhelming, especially since I am hard pressed to find a permanent job with benefits and to save money for "life" (a car and an apartment in Annapolis). Finances add to the stress. Even though I live at home with my family, I still need to write out checks every month for my student loans. I still need to budget money for the years ahead. I find myself thinking about my future a lot more now than I did while at the Mount. What will I be doing this time next year? Where will I be living? Who are the people that I will meet? Will I be financially stable? All of these questions remain unanswered.

The busyness of the "real world" has led to one drastic change in my morning routine: coffee. Last year, I never drank coffee. I believe the only coffee drinks I had ever consumed were a couple of frappuccinos during my freshman year and one flavored coffee drink from the dining hall. Ever since our office purchased a Keurig coffee maker, I have become accustomed to drinking a cup or two in the morning. I always thought that coffee was too strong; in fact, the only thing I ever liked about coffee was its rich aroma. Now, every morning, I venture to the office break room, turn on the Keurig, watch the steamy hot brown liquid drip into the Styrofoam cup, pour in two small blue packets of Equal, a spoonful of powdered creamer (or if Iím lucky, vanilla Coffee-Mate), and stir it up. The hot coffee keeps my tired eyes alert when I am reading documents at 8 A.M. and attending staff meetings. It also keeps me from freezing, since my corner of the office always feels like Antarctica. Drinking coffee also makes me feel older and more mature. Whenever I think of coffee, I think of intelligent people who carry briefcases and wear five-button suits. Coffee has transformed me from student to working woman.

When I was a student at the Mount, I left my family on the Pasadena peninsula to study on Emmitsburgís mountainside. After graduation, I left behind the friends that became family. I moved back home to Pasadena, and my roommates moved back to their hometowns as well. Living at home is quite an adjustment from living in a college apartment with two roommates. Now, whenever I want to talk to my roommates, I need to schedule a time to call them. Last year, all I needed to do was walk into the adjoining bedroom or walk into the common room if I wanted to have a nice long girl chat. I miss sharing the events of the day with my roommates, dancing with them, and eating meals together. I am thankful that even though my roommates and I are separated by many miles, (one of my roommates lives on Long Island, while the other lives in Howard County) we are still very close. My roommates definitely became my sisters during my senior year. They comforted me during a break-up, encouraged me when I applied for my job, and congratulated me when I won the Mountís Creative Writing Award.

Even though living at home has turned me into quite the "grown-up," I am still a Mountie at heart. Thankfully, Pasadena is only an hour and twenty minutes away from the Mount, so I can still escape the busy suburbs and bask in the serene countryside. Every time I return, whether it is for Homecoming or to bring my sister back to school, I feel at ease. My mother and my roommateís mother have said the same thing. There is an aura of peace at the Mount. Maybe it is because Elizabeth Ann Seton walked the grounds, maybe it is because Mary is watching over the mountain, or maybe it is because there are so many thoughtful personalities on campus. Whatever the case may be, the Mount has provided me with a wonderful escape from reality. When I am on campus, the rewind button is always within reach. I can close my eyes, breathe in the mountain air, and be instantly transported back to my days there. My life may have changed in the past year, but the Mount will always be in my heart.

Read other articles by Chelsea Baranoski