Life in Transition!

I made a big move.  I dropped out of the school I was attending.  I was on my way home from school on Monday and I looked at my GPS and noticed the arrival time to my house was 5:45.  I thought back to when I left school - 3:30, that's when I actually left the building and started walking towards the train station.  Then I thought about when I left home to go to school - 9:45.  That's to catch the 10:28 train that, after my mile long walk to school, gets me there around noon.  I eat lunch, practice for about an hour or hour and a half, then have two classes, but only one and a half hours of dictation, which is the most important part.  The second class is kind of...well, I don't really need it.  It's transcribing a test if you want to which they encourage but you aren't even tested every single day so a lot of days I don't even have a second class.  So had I stayed for that transcription class on Monday, I would have gotten home even later - closer to 6:30 or 7:00.  So for two classes I spend 4 to 4.5 hours commuting to school and am gone from home from 9:45 - 6 or 7 each day?  And then I'm supposed to practice every day, which then I don't have any time left to do because I make dinner when I get home and then..well, it's not much longer than that and I go to bed just to get up and do it all over.  So I decided to just drop before it was too late to drop without getting a failing grade.

There's another school that doesn't go into the city that will take me about an hour to get there, no train, no walking, and I'll be home by noon every day.  I was afraid to tell Mark I was dropping out of school, I thought he would think I was a quitter.  But to my surprise, he said he couldn't believe I'd been doing that all along, that he'd wanted to say something, but it just seemed like I had decided on that school.  Well, I didn't really think I had any other choice, it has a certain accreditation that the other one I will be going to doesn't, but at this point, I don't freaking care! I just want to finish school, and that's it!  All I need is to pass that state test, and I don't think anyone will care where I went to school.  If I can write 225 wpm in a courtroom or for the deaf or for closed captioning on television or whatever, I don't think anyone would care if I learned on my own online from home!  And there's a LOT LOT LOT to be said about the quality of life.  I mean seriously, that was just awful.  If I had a JOB in the city and was working 8 hours or so that would be different, but it was just a waste of time, and in that 1.5 hours, what made me even more mad, was about 30 minutes of that time would be wasted by the teacher talking about nonsense or helping an individual student and I'd be thinking, really?  I came all this way for THIS?  And paid all this money in education for....an hour???

So...I start school again in April.  I'll have to get disciplined and practice at home every day until then, a lot.

The decorator.  I so don't know what to do.  She came over last weekend and showed us what she came up with and I don't know.  I like her ideas, but...I just think she wants to spend money in the wrong places.  Of course it's up to us what we choose or don't choose to buy, but now I don't know if I even want to use her, or a different decorator, or just do it myself.  For instance, we never said we wanted window treatments, that was her whole thing, but she kind of talked us into it, then came back with her drawings of them, which yes, they were very cool, and a whole suitcase of fabrics to choose from, but then the estimates just for the window treatments was $10k!  Are you freaking kidding me?  We want the whole first floor refurnished, and we have no furniture in the sunroom because we've never had one, and we're going to spend ten thousand dollars on draperies?  I mean what kind of decorator puts window treatments over furniture if they have your best interests at heart?  So the furniture - she only showed us furniture for the family room.  She didn't do any other room, like the formal living, the formal dining, or the sun room.  And just that was $11k, and didn't include end tables, coffee tables, rugs, lamps, artwork, etc.  I mean the couch by itself was $3500, and the chair and ottoman was over $2000.  No, I don't want cheap furniture, but I would like to spread the budget out so I could furnish more than one room.  Yes, I told her a budget, and while it's quite a bit more than what I told her, as far as she knows, she just spent most of our entire budget on draperies and a couple of pieces of furniture in the family room.  So the question is...do I tell her we don't want window treatments and let her continue with decorating the house, reign her in on the budget, or just ditch her altogether?  When she came, she showed us plenty of pictures of her work on windows, but none of the rooms she's done.  She was a referral from our realtor, so I had no information about her other than she had staged homes that sold quickly and she had also decorated our realtor's house.  But what exactly she did to her house, I have no idea.  She could have put a flower arrangement on the dining room table, I have no idea.  I'm actually quite frustrated.  I've always been very prompt in responding to her when she contacts me, even contacting her if I don't hear from her, but not since then.  She sends me texts and emails, and I may not reply, or I might reply but it's not right away and it's very brief.  I just don't want to send the wrong message, that everything is going well if we in fact are not going to do business with her.  And Mark thinks I'm too nice, he's afraid that I will decide to use her because I don't want to hurt her feelings and end up buying things that I don't want.  I mean, yes, I don't like to tell people I don't like their work or whatever, she obviously spent a lot of time on her presentation last weekend, but we did pay a fee for it.  I don't know, the more I think through it as I'm writing about it, the more I think I just need to tell her we're going to go another direction.

Tonight is my first meeting with our new city's women's club, we'll see how that goes.  I don't make friends easily.  I don't know if I seem shy, if I don't have anything in common with other people, if I try too hard or I don't try at all, I just never feel that connection with most women.  I used to - in my 20's, but not anymore.  I was looking forward to it, but now I'm not really.  It just seems like another place to fail socially.

14 comments:

The Queen said...

If you dropped out of one school and got in to another school to help you with your scheduling, why would "Mark" care? Good answer Mark.. five out of five gin glasses for you..

KansasSunflower said...

Queen - I guess he didn't, like you said, but I'd always worked since we've been together and he's been supporting me financially and, well, being positive about my going to school so his reaction was important to me. I hate being dependent on someone financially though! It drives me crazy! By the way - love, love, love your blog! : )

susie said...

How was your social event last night?

A. You blew it off
B. It was tolerable
C. You had a pretty good time

I've had a female social drought since December. Damn introversion.

KansasSunflower said...

Susie - your first guess was right! A. I blew it off. But...to be fair, I ran in the cold yesterday morning and for some bizarre reason sometimes I have this weird allergic reaction to running in the cold and I was sneezing, my nose was running like a faucet and I looked terrible. If it was school, I would have gone. But I thought I would make a horrible impression if I were to meet new people. I went through a whole box of tissue! This is the second month that I have not gone to a meeting where I told them I would. I am embarrassed to ask to go NEXT month's...

susie said...

I wouldn't dream of going. I did do Habitat for Humanity for a couple of years. I stopped when they started calling me all of the time.

jenji said...

Oh, no.

Well, so long as you're going to complete your degree elsewhere. You've put so much time and energy in so far and it'll be worth it once you're done. Suffice to say I had zero social life for just under two years. When I wasn't sleeping or eating I was practicing. The program is supposed to take 2 1/2 to 3 years but I finished early and still I was ready to poke my eyes out by the time I was done. I was the only one left from my original class of 30. It's funny because even though I no longer make my living this way I'm still always transcribing in my head while others are talking. Every now and again I pull the steno out and play around and when I see trials on television I have pangs wherein I miss that grind. Having said that, I wish they had had computer transcription back when I was learning/working. We had to translate directly from the steno notes. Talk about tedious.

Anyway, again I wish you luck and it's so funny that I knew exactly what you were talking about with speeds and dictations.

best,
jenji

KansasSunflower said...

Susie, that's very admirable! But I so know what you mean! It's one thing when you volunteer your time on your schedule, but not when you're constantly bombarded to do it! I really admire you for doing it as long as you did!

KansasSunflower said...

Jenji - How many hours of practice, including school hours, do you think you got a week? It's taking me forever and I think my problem is I'm not practicing enough! Yes, you're totally right about the dropout rate. 1 girl from my original class will be graduating in a few months, and then there's me. That's it, out of about 15 of us that were so committed in the beginning. We all knew about the dropout rate and swore it wouldn't be us but...as I've seen time and again, things happen!

jenji said...

Hiya.

Well, let me say this: you have to practice. A lot.

I'd say that I used to have 6 hrs per week of actual in class time-I went to night classes twice a week. Aside from that I used to practice 6-8 hours per day. I treated my studies like a job. I even took a trip to Disneyworld and practiced at least 2 hours a day down there. I had 2 part time jobs at the time, however one worked in my favor in that I was running an independent video store in a very small village and for most of my 8 hour day I could just wear my headset and practice behind the counter unless someone needed to checkout or needed help. I really sacrificed to finish up. I actually managed to have a boyfriend at the time too, although when I look back on it I can't imagine how I juggled everything. But he was really supportive about my time away from him and the time I put into my "other man." ie: the machine.

How much are you practicing and refresh me as to what speeds your at now.

You can totally do this, you just have to resign yourself to not having a life for a little bit, which is totally worth it if you just commit yourself to that reality in that you'll be out before you know it. Condense your focus and maybe you'll see you're making more progress and therein getting out sooner. If you are only half committed bc you want to have a life now, well then it's going to take so much longer and may not even happen at all. I know how frustrating it can be when you're lingering at one speed and just can't quite jump that next hurdle.

In all honesty, all the reporters I know really hunkered down and made this their mission to complete. It's a cutthroat industry and it pays to be the best. You can totally do this. Just fully commit and focus. But if you're really not feeling you can make the sacrifice then maybe you should look into another vocation. There's no shame in that.

best,
jenji

KansasSunflower said...

Thanks, Jenji! I am *so* not practicing enough after reading your comment! Not anywhere even close to enough! For some reason, I got this idea that no one really practiced that much, they even say so in class? Maybe those are the ones who end up quitting eventually, I don't know, but I can't and won't, I have someone supporting me until I finish, whenever that is, however long it takes, which has already been longer than I'd like. So what did you practice, how did you practice? What worked best for you? Did you practice at higher speeds? In one minute increments or 10 second increments? How did you work on accuracy? Did you read your notes a lot? Sorry for all the questions, but it's hard to get motivated when I'm not even sure what I'm doing when I practice is helping!

KansasSunflower said...

Jenji - sorry, to your question - the last tests I passed were 120's, so I'm at 140.

jenji said...

Hiya,

What are the requirements for your particular program to graduate? It varies from program to program. Most programs are 225 wpm with 3 voice testimony at 95% accuracy. Does your program test with live testimony? That's really the best kind of training.

All of the reporters that I know practiced a lot. I've never heard the barely practice theory before, but perhaps they are referring to the fact that just because you have the machine in hand it doesn't mean you're having a proactive session. If you're distracted or practicing what you've already mastered to feel as though you're keeping up, you're not doing yourself any good. This is wasted time. If you can't focus, walk away and come back when you can. This is very important in the beginning because otherwise you'll start to resent the machine. And there will be periods where you'll get hung up with either speed or particular strokes. Push through them. Repetition.

For now, my advice would be to vary up your practice sessions with accuracy drills and speed drills. Vary the degree of difficulty. And have a warm up practice that's the same every time you begin a session. Your hands are like the legs of a sprinter, they need to warm up. Think of it like an obstacle course. You may be really fast and good at swinging on the monkey bars across the muddy muck, but you may get easily tripped up whilst running in and out of the tires. Everyone has a problem in some particular area. For some it's the fact that they may in fact have the ability to record at certain speeds in the comfort of their own home or library, however, that individual may not be able to get out of their own way or out of their own head to allow themselves to focus during an actual testing. In my opinion, this is the biggest problem to overcome because it's basically about your nerves and confidence. If you're at 140 wpm now you have quite a ways to go, so you are probably still learning new words and phrases at this point. Our program provided us with tapes that included letter/word/phrase/voice/speed drills depending on what level you're at.

In the beginning, I literally practiced the "A A A space C C C space" kind of thing. Then I would habitually do the alphabet each and every time I set my hands on the machine before practicing. Eventually I did the same thing with phrases "in so much as" "preponderance of fact" kind of thing. Over and over. 15 second increments for new phrases, 30 second increments for familiar. Line a bunch of them up consecutively so you're not taking your hands off the machine to put another disc in or fast forward to another part. For me, accuracy drills tended to be shorter, practice wise anyway. While speed drills tended to be longer. If particular phrases or words are giving you trouble, make your own tapes with these issues and drill yourself on them everyday. Get your hands used to making moves they don't want to make. I used to call them tough turns. My left middle finger was the only one that wouldn't play nice with all the other fingers, so there were particular words or phrases that were a completely unnatural movement for that finger and I just couldn't get it to stop hesitating. But then I made up my problem area tape and soon my finger caught up with the others.

...more to come

jenji said...

And yes, I read my notes a lot. I'm moving April 1st and I still have closets full of notes and I haven't been in the industry for over a decade.

Then vary up your short practice drills with recorded testimony. Vary the speeds with that you have mastered and that you can't hardly even reach yet. Vary the length of time. 30 seconds, 1 minute, 90 seconds, even 3 minutes. I had 2 hour long tapes that were peppered with these different increments of speeds so I would be able to go for quite a while before needing a break. I usually took a break once I began to seriously debate drop kicking the machine through a window. That was my cue to take a break.

Also, vary up your practice with real-time testimony.

Eventually, watch court tv or any television program for that fact and just record it. Then read your notes back out loud to someone who can say whether you're making any sense or not. If you know you're going to watch Law and Order: SVU, make your character designations beforehand and then have at it in 5-10 min increments. And don't get discouraged if it's not perfect. You don't have to be perfect yet at this level yet. Use a show you're familiar with and use shows that you're not familiar with. Even though it may not seem like it, this kind of practice really does you justice in the long run bc to be a great reporter you need to be able to record live testimony without hesitation. Court reporters used to be just reporters with the occasional closed captioning jobs. Now they do so many different things and many of them are not live, so to speak. Train yourself for live, even if you're not going to look for work in that area. At the speed you're at now, I would only occasionally do this kind of practice, as you're still learning phrases and so on. But you're very close to where you should be able to take most dictation without coming across things that are too unfamiliar.

Once we were in the advanced classes we asked to train at faster levels than what was required to graduate. We would train with 3-4 voice testimony at rates as fast as 275 wpm. At first it felt like my hair was on fire. But we didn't practice at that level constantly. But we did make time for it every class and I always made more time for it during my own practice sessions. Eventually, you'll find yourself keeping up and you'll wanna high five the person next to you. I swear to God, when I passed my last test to graduate I almost spiked the machine into the ground like a football. My adrenaline was off the charts. I was all "BOOM! Who's your Bitch now?!" Of course, I was talking to the machine.

Anyway, I hope I answered some of your questions. I'm an athlete, always have been, so I approached my education with an athlete's brain. I was in training. My hands were in training. Stretch. Train your brain to overcome nerves, to focus in the moment. You'll know you're making some major progress when you lose time. That means you're lost in the process, which is good. I think each person has to tailor their sessions that best suit their ability to learn. You're still at a lower level, so don't be too hard on yourself if you're stuck in a rut right now. Make a change in how you practice and you may see results. I think I recall a considerable number of people dropped out right before 175 wpm, so maybe there's something about the speed your at that's just more challenging than others?

best,
jenji

KansasSunflower said...

Thanks Jenji - incredibly, incredibly helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to write and tell me what you did to practice! I also love the analogy of training like an athlete - that gives me a new perspective! I am going to do what you you suggested and what worked for you because no one really tells you what or how to practice. They give you tapes or mp3's, but really no suggestions on how to do it. Thank you SO SO much! : ) I *really* want out of school!!! I am amazed you practiced 6-7 hours a day - that is dedication! Maybe I can work up to that!

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