college

10 Things I’ve Done Since I Graduated from College

I haven’t done a great job of writing for this blog lately. Maybe it’s because my new life is intimidating and time-consuming. Maybe it’s because the growing pains are lesser these days. This year, I’m going to try to write again. But in any case, in the meantime, here’s a non-comprehensive list of some of my latest and greatest accomplishments.

  1. Moved across the country. That’s right, I’m back on the east coast – in Boston, the land of my ancestors. Well, the immediate ones, anyway. As in, my parents.
  2. Threw up five times on the way up Mount Washington. Good news, everyone – I summited, and lived to tell the tale! It was a close call, though, especially at the very end when my hiking partner decided to RUN to the summit with our only water supply in his backpack.
  3. Got banned from a small town in New Hampshire. After an unfortunate night that involved a run-in between a couple of minors that I was responsible for and a local police department, I was informed that I was “no longer welcome” in that town. What a tragedy.
  4. Had mono. Which elicited a lot of responses like, “oh, wow! I had mono in high school LOL” or “who have you been making out with?!” even from the adults I work with. Because really, we’re all twelve years old.
  5. Decided to apply to MFA programs. Who knows if it’ll work out? I’ve heard back from two of the eight schools that I applied to, and it’s looking like a possibility. But if it doesn’t end up happening, that’s okay too. It’s been a fun ride.
  6. Finally bought a pencil skirt (and several other essentials of a business wardrobe). For better or for worse, I’ve gone (kind of) corporate.
  7. Tried sushi for the first time. And let me tell you, my life will NEVER be the same. I’m such a sushi convert, I’ve started ordering raw fish at restaurants. RAW FISH. If you told me six months ago I’d be eating raw salmon steaks, I would have gagged. And yet, here we are.
  8. Looked someone in the eyes and thought, “I could love you.” And then I did. In fact, I still do.
  9. Took my first trip to our nation’s capital. It’s a pretty cool place, I had a fantastic tour guide, and I got to see two of my very best college friends. The White House was kind of underwhelming, but what can you do? At the very least, I got to black out from drinking too much Buffalo Trace. The classiest of activities.
  10. Started to think of “adulthood” as the present. I think this is adulthood — a stunted version, perhaps, where the government subsidizes my food and I’m still on my parents’ health insurance — but on a daily basis, I’m self-sufficient. I’m not a student anymore. I’m a real, human, grown-up person, and it’s not so scary after all.

Dear Taylor Swift, Here Are 22 Things That 22 Actually Feels Like

1. Not being able to pay your grocery bill because you bought that extra handle of Fireball.

2. A dizzying lack of sleep.

3. Drinking day-old coffee because you’re too lazy to make a fresh pot.

4. Digging in all your coat pockets for enough quarters to do a load of laundry.

5. Rapidly approaching unemployment.

6. Choosing Netflix over a frat party and feeling really good about your decision.

7. Realizing that you have no more birthdays to look forward to.

8. Having more respect for your crockpot than your roommates.

9. Panicking about how soon you have to pay for your own health insurance.

10. Wondering whether it’s acceptable to get your news from both Buzzfeed and the New York Times.

11. Calling your mom to ask how to use the toaster oven as an oven.

12. Screwing up your taxes.

13. Forgetting what it means to have to wear something other than men’s boxer shorts.

14. Trying to figure out at what point it is no longer okay for your mom to be your emergency contact.

15. Losing all respect for pretty much anyone under the age of 21.

16. One giant, horrible, disorienting hangover.

17. Actually waking up when your alarm goes off.

18. A slightly terrifying readiness to become a contributing member of society.

19. Finally starting to become friends with the siblings you once wanted to strangle.

20. Learning how much shit you thought was free you actually have to pay for.

21. Complaining about back and neck pain.

22. Okay, maybe I do feel happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. Damn it Taylor Swift. Looks like you got something right.

A Finals Week Pick-Me-Up/Knock-Me-Down

It’s finals and I’m having trouble thinking up a post that doesn’t involve combinatorial analysis of a tic-tac-toe board. So I’m sorry, but this is not going to be intellectually stimulating at all.

Instead, I’m going to ruin the ending of as many books/movies as I can think of, because it’ll make me feel better.

  • She dies in the fight.
  • He dies of cancer.
  • She dies in a car crash.
  • He’s been dead the whole time.
  • She dies of AIDS.
  • He kills her little sister.
  • She was sleeping with her boyfriend’s dad.
  • He gets abducted by aliens as he’s dying of cancer.
  • The devil ascends in human form.
  • It was all a dream.
  • He gets hit by a meteor.
  • She jumps in front of a train.
  • He euthanizes her.
  • Only the virgin lives until the end.
  • She turns out to be a psychopath.
  • He goes insane.
  • It wasn’t a training session.
  • He was depressed because he was repressing sexual abuse.
  • The butler did it.
  • The ex-boyfriend did it.
  • The not-really-dead twin sister did it.

Don’t you just love happy endings?

And now, back to combinatorics. Peace out, y’all.

On Graduating College, Or Why Time Needs to Move Slower

Screenshot 2014-03-17 19.20.05

I set a countdown last night for the day I finish my last final. Now I have this blinking clock at the top of my computer screen that says pretty much the scariest sentence I’ve ever seen.

“2 months and 25 days until you’re done with college.”

Seriously? How did I get here? It feels like just yesterday I was receiving my first college acceptance letter – but no, that was 2009. It’s been more than four years since then. And it’s been a long four years. Definitely challenging. Invigorating. Heartbreaking. Eye-opening. And in a little under three months, it’ll all be over.

I don’t feel like an adult. I still feel like the same shy, terrified little freshman who cried her eyes out every night because she was so homesick. Hell, I have even less of an idea of what I want to do with my life today than I did in 2010. In what universe am I ready to graduate? I don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet or use the broiler on my oven. I forget to empty the trash can in my bedroom for months and sometimes even to lock the door when I leave the house. I’m a kid pretending to be a grown-up, and I’m not even doing a very good job of it.

There are moments, though. Moments when I think, “wait a minute. This is my life.” My apartment is a disaster area 85% of the time because we don’t do the dishes enough or put away our shoes, but you know what? I have an apartment, and I pay my bills, and I couldn’t have done that when I was eighteen. I talk to people when I go somewhere new; I network and make connections and four years ago that would have paralyzed me. Even though some of it feels the same, I’m not the person I was when I rolled my suitcase to Willard 228 for the first time.

I honor the girl I used to be, because she is the one that allowed me to become who I am. But I’m glad I’m not eighteen anymore. Everything was life or death back then – picking a major, joining a sorority, staying in touch with everyone from my graduating class – and it was exhausting. I lived in a constant state of pressure and fear. I didn’t know how to let all the petty stuff go.

I’m not an adult, I know. I’m still clueless and scared and unprepared. But I’m smart enough to figure it out. These past four years have been the hardest I’ve ever faced, and look at how I’ve conquered them! Despite the fear, the misgivings, the doubt, I’m ready for what happens next.

2 months and 25 days. Let’s do this.

16 Reasons My Roommates Are Better Than Yours

  1. They let me eat their leftovers.
  2. They call me out when I do something really disgusting like clip my toenails on the couch.
  3. They proofread my blog posts when I’m a little too intoxicated to string together coherent sentences.
  4. They make the best chocolate chip cookies in the entire universe.
  5. They introduce me to a wide variety of really wonderful and really terrible movies.
  6. They enforce the “every time you say something bad about yourself you have to say three good things about yourself” rule.
  7. They know the difference between times when it’s appropriate to mock my singleness and times when they need to hold my hand because I’m completely convinced I’m going to die alone.
  8. They don’t get mad at me when I drink all their liquor and then buy them a replacement bottle and drink that too.
  9. They share my affinity for Buzzfeed quizzes and understand when I get weirdly emotional about the results.
  10. They decorate the house for every single holiday. And I do mean every single one.
  11. They are somehow still okay with the fact that I’ve crashed 80% of their dates for the past nine months.
  12. They do my dishes sometimes even though I don’t deserve it.
  13. They’re super weird and loud and hilarious. This counts as, like, 3000 reasons.
  14. They have become quite skilled at convincing me that I’m being ridiculous and overdramatic and I need to CALM DOWN.
  15. They actually let me dress us up as Lady and the Tramp and the bowl of spaghetti for Halloween.
  16. They’re smart and sassy and successful and they got me through a really tough time in my life. If roommates were flowers, I’d pick them every time.

Throwback Thursday: College Essay

I wasn’t expecting very much when my parents drove me to the parking lot of my dad’s company on an insignificant day in the middle of June. I thought maybe my dad had forgotten a project he had to finish, or he’d left his briefcase there or something. So when we pulled in right alongside a beat-up Buick Le Sabre with patches of rust all over the body, I wasn’t really thinking anything other than, “I wonder who let THAT happen.”

But people always surprise you, even parents who tell you that they would never in a million years buy you a car. That 15-year-old beater came home with us that day. It needed work, of course, considering its age, but my dad told me that as soon as he was done, I could have it. Not astoundingly, I was overjoyed. It was every sixteen-year-old’s dream to have a car of their very own. I certainly didn’t care what it looked like, or that it smelled a tiny bit like cigarette smoke, or that it had perfect little cylindrical holes in the seats, or even that the A/C didn’t work. It was a car, and more than that, it was my car.

I don’t know if I had ever been so dedicated to anything in my life. Instead of going out with my friends the following Saturday, I stayed at home cleaning the car. I vacuumed the interior, shook out the rugs, scoured the windows, scraped tar off the dashboard, and even tried to take off some of the rust. I had a few mishaps; while trying to scrape the rusty bottom with a broom, I accidentally punched a hole through the entire panel. But I worked, without a break, until it was too dark to continue.

My car became a part of me. Vladimir, as I called him, became not only a tool of my independence, but a fortress of solitude in which I could lock my doors to the rest of the world. I explored new places without having to leave behind the familiar, venturing far beyond where I had ever dared to go alone. In the comfort and solace of the front seat I was free to emote as I wished, screaming in celebration or sobbing in disappointment, separate from the eyes of any others. And somehow, he always seemed to understand what I was feeling, keeping his headlights pinned on the horizon, reminding me to find assurance in what lay ahead. I began to rely on him not only for transportation, but for friendship. He was loyal and dependable, honest and helpful. His presence in my driveway was like the constant presence of an old friend.

However, Vladimir was aging every day; rusting, cracking, squeaking, faltering, breaking. The strength and invincibility I used to feel within his walls started to be replaced with panic and frustration. On the day he died, I stood in the dusty parking lot for hours, attaching and reattaching jumper cables, trying uselessly with everything I had to coax him to come back to me. And at that moment, it hit me: that I had put all my faith and trust in something inanimate, fallible, and unreliable. As much as I had convinced myself of all Vladimir had taught me, in reality I had made my own adventures and judgments, as I could have done with or without him. He was only a vehicle in which I had traveled; everything else that I had made him was my own imagination and wishful thinking. He did not have magic powers, and he was not in tune with my emotions. He wasn’t even a he. I had not lost a friend. All I had lost was a broken 15-year-old beater car with patches of rust all over the body.

Two weeks later, my dad fixed Vladimir, and now he runs as well as he ever did. But I no longer rely on him for all that I used to. I have friends I can call when I need to scream in celebration or sob in disappointment, and they assure me better than just some high-beam headlights. And I still go on adventures, but I know he’s not driving me anywhere. I’m the one driving, I’m behind the wheel, and I get to take charge: I can steer him anywhere I want to go.

8 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started College

1. 50% of the people who say they know exactly what they want to do with their lives are lying. The other 50% will change their minds. It is damn near impossible to know what you want at 18 – hell, it’s damn near impossible to know at 22. It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to graduate and still not know. It’s okay to turn forty and still not know.

2. College boys are not significantly more mature, attractive, or attainable than high school boys. But also, college is so NOT about finding a boy, no matter what those dumb CWTV shows have to say about it.

3. Innocence isn’t something to be ashamed of. Neither is introversion. Hiding fundamental parts of yourself won’t make you likable, but it will make you miserable.

4. Success after graduation has so little to do with GPA it’s not even funny. And caring about grades more than actually learning is a terrible waste of a $50,000/year education.

5. On a similar note, it is better to be happy and sane and social and well-rounded than to have a 4.0. Sleeping 8 hours the night before a midterm is just as important as studying and doing homework. Spending time with your friends is just as important as building your resume. Seriously.

6. Everyone is fighting a battle. All the time. 99% of the time they won’t share it with you, but it’s there. You are never the only one hurting.

7. It’s so much more valuable to take classes you enjoy than to waste time in ones that seem “practical” or “easy.” The ones you enjoy are the ones you remember, and what is the point of learning a semester’s worth of information if you’re just going to forget it after a week of binge-watching Netflix?

8. Adulthood is a total facade. College graduates are just confused kids who pretend they know how to navigate the real world, but are really just making it up as they go along. You’re never ready to leave college, you just do.

I’m Ashamed To Like You, Because You’re Just Interesting

My seventh grade crush had these really big ears that stuck out of the side of his head, kind of like a cartoon mouse. People used to whisper about them, but I thought they were nice. They fit with the rest of him, all awkward and gangly and full of subtle imperfections. I liked that he didn’t look like everybody else. I thought he looked interesting, and that was better than just being pretty.

I was always kind of weird that way. My friends teased me mercilessly for my taste in men (boys) until I learned that there were only certain types of people I was allowed to like. Straying from the norm would only cause problems, and I was already socially insecure enough without alienating my friends, too.

“But he’s so short,” they complained once when I told them I had feelings for my best guy friend. Another time I got a wide-eyed, open mouthed stare and a “…him?” They could not fathom the idea that I might be attracted to someone who was, well, not “cute.” You know, in the way that middle and high school heartthrobs are supposed to be cute. And in the case of my particular suburb, also white.

The thing is, I’m a sucker for interesting. I’m amazed by how many people I come across who think that’s an insult, a blow to their looks or their intellect or whatever else. Our culture has somehow given that word a negative connotation; it’s simply a placeholder for when you can’t think of anything nice. “Oh…interesting,” you say, when really it isn’t at all. But what can we ever hope to be if not interesting? Why would anyone strive for less?

Sometimes it’s the element of surprise, like when the quiet kid who sits behind you in tenth grade English class suddenly starts rapping Li’l Mama’s “Lip Gloss” from memory. Sometimes it comes from the respect and awe you feel when you see the class clown act so kindly toward everybody, and you think, “how can anyone possibly be that patient?” And sometimes all it takes is exposure to a millisecond of somebody’s greatest passion: a musician strumming his guitar, an engineer discussing circuitry, a sports fan yelling at a TV set. You’re hooked.

Sure, there are times when you get to know them and they’re not as intriguing as you thought. Nice enough, interesting enough, but that’s about it. But there are other times when you get to know them and they’re utterly intoxicating. Everything you learn about them pulls you in deeper, and no matter how much you know, you want to know more. Maybe interesting isn’t the right word after all. Fascinating. Captivating. Complex and wonderful.

I regret that in my life I’ve left a lot of interesting people behind. I spend far too much time caring about what other people think, so much so that I completely tune out my feelings. By the time I graduated from high school, I’d missed my chance to chase the two or three people I’d really wanted. By the time I graduate from college in June, I will have missed at least three more. And for what? For the brief satisfaction of knowing nobody was going to laugh at me?

I wish I had the balls to tell my seventh grade crush how much I admired his tenacity – and his ears. Or to tell the guy I didn’t go to prom with about the time he came over to return my book and it took everything I had not to kiss him. And right now, I wish I could call up the boy I barely know and ask him a million questions, just so that he knows someone wants to listen. I want so badly to not give a damn what anybody else thinks about it.

Above all, these boys should know that they’re interesting. To all of you: there were, and are, people out there who spend a lot of time thinking about you and wishing they were brave enough to say so. Regardless of whether you meet objective standards of beauty or intelligence or humor, there is somebody who thinks you’re the most wonderful person on the planet. Even if they wait seven years to say it. Even if they never do.

And to the rest of us: screw what everyone else thinks. Love the interesting ones. Love the weird ones. Love the ones you never quite understand. Just love.

When Your Words Matter

A week ago, I got an email inviting me to be a Book in Global Engagement Summit’s Living Library. I was flattered, but honestly, a little confused. The premise of this event was that people would come and check me out from the library because they thought the premise of my “Book” was interesting – but I’m not interesting, am I? What do I have to say that is valuable enough to share with a group of people whose influence stretches across the globe?

I expected to sit in my chair undisturbed for two hours. After all, the other “Books” in the library had far better stories to tell. They had made documentaries in foreign countries or been the first in their families to go to college. Nobody would want to waste their time talking to me.

I was wrong, though. Plenty of people took the seat opposite me for a ten or fifteen-minute period. Yes, a couple of them stumbled my way by accident, thinking I was somebody else, and many of them probably stopped by because all the other Books were occupied. But that didn’t matter in the end. Regardless of how they came my way, they did. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it’s that every accident is a wonderful blessing.

Do you know how many people I’ve spoken to, out loud, about my experiences with writing and blogging and recovering from the disorder that has torn my life apart? Not very many. I think it showed. My 1-2 minute opening “spiel” was awkward, erratic, and probably not very much fun to listen to. I felt the people across from me flinch as I said the words “eating disorder” out loud – perhaps I shouldn’t have led with such a jarring phrase. The second it left my mouth, I regretted it. “This was a mistake,” I thought. “This is personal. I shouldn’t be sharing this with the world.”

Should I?

The first person I talked to seemed rather startled by what I had to say. “Oh…” she trailed off as I waited expectantly for her reply. It took her a second to figure out how to respond. “Oh. Wow.” Not the worst response I could have gotten, but not exactly the one I was hoping for, either.

The second person I talked to laughed nervously when I told her what my Book title was. “Um, whoa.” At least the conversation moved a little bit from there. “That’s amazing. I can’t imagine going through something like that.”

I got better at talking the more I talked. By the time the coordinator sat down and said, “got time for one more conversation?” I was an expert in my own subject. Words started pouring out of me, words that I didn’t even know were true. “I have an eating disorder,” I said boldly. “And I was given this shitty, God-awful experience for a reason – so that I could share it.”

There are moments when I surprise even myself. That was one of them. Until that moment, I don’t think I fully processed that my voice, my blog, my writing…had saved my life. I don’t think I’d ever realized how much I owed Little Growing Pains, the brainchild that became the life source. I learned that I had a story, a story worth telling, a story that had the capacity to change other people’s lives as well as my own. I learned that everything I’d written was worth more than I ever could have dreamed.

I walked out of the Library that day prouder than I can ever remember being. There’s nothing quite like knowing how much your words matter.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s kind of funny how hard it is to write when I’m not going through some kind of crisis. In some ways, I feel like happiness is boring; like now that I’ve grown closer to accepting the way things are, I’ve sacrificed some of the things that made me interesting. I worry that without the struggles that defined me when I started this blog, I have nothing worth saying.

I hope that’s not true. I don’t want it to be true. I think “interesting” is the greatest compliment I could ever get, and I couldn’t bear it if someone told me I was boring.

I’m worried that you guys, my readers, my crazy huge number of followers, are only here because of the hard stuff. Because there’s something about my journey through several levels of hell that struck you, or inspired you, or made you feel like you weren’t alone. Believe me, it has been unbelievable to be able to share my experiences with all of you. It has been a dream come true to be able to give some glimmer of hope to people who are struggling. This blog has been everything I ever could have hoped for and more.

The thing is, I’m doing well now. My life is pretty mundane. I’m a normal college student, taking a full courseload and working a part-time job. I spend my weekends marathoning TV shows and Netflix or spending time with my wonderful friends. I worry about normal college things, like graduating and getting good grades and finding a job. And being broke. And lamenting the fact that I’m still single. I’ve got a lot of worries, sure, but my health is no longer one of them.

As silly as it is, I wonder why any of you would care anymore. I’m nothing but average now, with nothing remarkable to show for my daily activities. It’s a blessing to be normal, to feel like I belong in the college culture, but as a blogger? Who wants to read about the life of a college math major? Besides the challenges I’ve worked to overcome, what makes me a worthwhile contributor to the WordPress world?

I am terrified that somehow, because I’m “normal,” my life has lost its meaning. That the things I’ve shared are the only things I’ll ever share. That I’ve reached my peak and nothing I do from this point on matters. All I’ll be is that blogger that used to be really insightful but now only talks about her job and her nights out on the town, losing followers left and right because she’s nothing special anymore. (Not that followers define me, but you know what I mean.)

I guess all I can say is that I’m still here. I’m still alive, which is something I never take for granted. I’m living outside of my URL, spending every day pushing toward the next phase of my life, hoping that something I do will matter someday. I still write 1000 words in my journal every day. I still think and wonder and love and cry and everything else humans do. I just don’t know how to say those things to all of you without losing my air of wisdom and courage. Without losing you.

Que sera, sera. What will be, will be. The only thing I can do is live the best way I know how, and I hope that I can take some of you with me along the way. Because God only knows what I’d do without you.