homecoming

A couple weekends ago I went to my alma mater’s homecoming. The air was cold but the sun was warm, and all the right people were there. The game was so lopsided (in our favor) I only stayed for half.

The food was good, the drinks even better, and it turns out I missed some people I never thought I would. I saw most of the people I expected to – the types that never leave. There was one or two people in particular I wanted to run into, but didn’t think I would. I know them and enjoyed my time with them in school, but we were never very close so we didn’t keep in touch very often.

One of these people – let’s call him Andy – did happen to be at the bar I went to. He was a friend of a friend that I had a few classes with senior year and I always loved hanging out with him. We did the usual “where are you now/how’s the job” bullshit type of conversation that you’re supposed to have. To everyone who had asked me this, I didn’t even try to mask that I wasn’t overly happy at my current job. When I expressed this to Andy, he said something to the effect of:

You’re too smart for that! I found a job I like, you just have to keep looking and keep networking. You’re so much smarter than me and you deserve to do something you love.

This was followed by the usual “I love you/I miss you” drunken conversation, but those words stuck with me. “You’re so much smarter than me, you deserve better”.

Andy is someone I barely know, who barely knows me! Yet, he knows and believes I deserve better (and he already has a girlfriend so it wasn’t like he had ulterior motives). Maybe I’m reading too far into a slightly drunken encounter, but how does this acquaintance of mine have more confidence in me than I do? I think that was the part that stuck with me more than the words themselves. If certain friends of mine had said this, I would have brushed it off as “oh they’re just being nice”. But because we don’t stay in touch, because we barely know each other, that somehow made what he said mean more.

On that note, I started applying for jobs again. I also turned down my first ever interview this week, because it would have been another job where I’d be unhappy in six months or less.

Finally, I got someone’s attention with some old writing samples. I’ll hear back next week if I get to interview with this tech company in a tiny nearby suburb I adore. The fact that it’s a tech company is terrifying, considering I don’t understand half of what their website says, but I’m excited about the fact that I would get to work on things I enjoy. Or at the very least, I could expand my knowledge and actually gain valuable skills – as opposed to what I’m doing now.

If someone I barely know has faith in me, at the very least I should have some faith in me.

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After living here for a year, I’m finally starting to explore my city. Since I’m not good at making friends, I’m just doing it solo. Why wait for someone to go with? I’m a perfectly capable adult who can totally do things on my own!

I’ve already mentioned my first solo bar trip, but before that I went to the art museum and wandered around that part of the city for awhile. It was a gorgeous day and everything about it was perfect. I didn’t even go through the entire museum because there was just too much to see! Last weekend, I went back to the art museum and tried to go see an exhibit but it was sold out, so I ended up at the local historical museum across the street. The city’s historical museum is also free, but not as cool as the art museum would have been. Still, I learned a couple of cool things about my city. Who knew there was a surprising amount of culture that came from – and was impacted by – this decaying mess!?

Now that I’ve done this a few times, going out on my own is not a big deal to me anymore. And why should it be anyway? I’m introverted, independent, and self-sufficient; thus, I’m more than okay doing a lot of things by myself. I probably wouldn’t go to, say, a sporting event by myself, but I’m cool with wandering around and doing things where I don’t need to talk to people anyway.

However, I made the mistake of mentioning my solo fun to my coworkers. Most of them are married. Or they’ve lived in the area their whole life, so all their friends are here. Or they have kids. Or the most excitement they get is refinancing their mortgage. Maybe all of the above. So when I said I went to the art museum by myself, some of them didn’t believe me. The rest make fun of me for it whenever possible.

Now, I’m not the sensitive type. I can take a joke. I’m usually “that girl” that is just the natural target for getting made fun of. And I welcome it; I always have a good comeback because that’s how I was raised. But their comments about me going to the museum by myself actually stung this time. In front of my coworkers, I laughed it off. In reality, I was angry at them! Who are they to tell me what’s strange? I’m single and alone up here – does that mean I have to stay home every weekend? Do I have to go out on stupid, awkward, uncomfortable dates just so I can leave my house? You with the kids – you don’t crave some alone time now and then? You with the husband – don’t you go shopping by yourself almost every day? You, that just bought a house – don’t you go to lunch by yourself at least once a week? How is this any different?

What I got from this experience is that there are socially acceptable solo activities, like grocery shopping, and there are socially unacceptable solo activities. Apparently fun things do not fit into that first list. I think that’s ridiculous. So while I’m still annoyed by their jests, I’m not going to stop doing these things. I’m just not going to tell them about it anymore. Which, given how prying and nosy these people can be, I shouldn’t tell them anything anyway.

If you were wondering what the downside to moving to a new city and living alone is? I wouldn’t say this is it. Go out, do things on your own. Just be prepared for people to question it. And ignore them. They wish they had the confidence to do the same.

Anniversary

Today, I “celebrate” one year at my first job out of college. One year with the same company, one year of doing the same job all year long.

There’s no movement in real life. Moving forward is so much harder. Time moves differently here.

Are people excited about these milestones? One year seems like nothing, and yet it’s everything. I’ve been in a relationship with the same person for four years, I played competitive soccer for 15 years, I was in school for 17 years. I’ve done things for longer amounts of time, but I was always moving towards something. I feel like that’s stopped. And it only took a year.

Maybe it’s school. I don’t learn like I used to. I feel like I get dumber all the time, every day. Maybe I do.

I did the things everyone tells you you’re supposed to do. I graduated, went to college, graduated again, and got a job. But now what? I’m not ready for the married life and motherhood, so what do other people do once they get to this place? Wait for a promotion five years from now? Wait to retire? Wait to die?

How do I figure out where I need to be? This isn’t my dream job, but I don’t know what is. I don’t know how to find it. Is it even worth it; does such a thing exist? Are there people out there who do genuinely love what they do? Or does everyone just deal with it?

For a brief moment when I graduated high school I thought I was willing to make almost no money and be a writer. Because “if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life,” and after having had over 5 different jobs by the time I graduated, I was sort of looking forward to the possibility of a life without work. I wish I had kept writing. Maybe not made it a career, but found a way to make it a bigger part of my life, job, and daily habits.

It’s not that I hate this company – I’m actually very fortunate to work here – and leaving my coworkers would be hard, but I’m just not used to this stagnation that I’ve been in, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

But, a milestone is a milestone. I did it. I’ve proven I can live on my own, hold a job, and manage my finances enough to slowly start paying back my student debt. I’m just not excited about any of it.

Goals?

In college it was easy. Lots of little goals, a few big ones. They were all of relative importance, S.M.A.R.T., had deadlines. Do this assignment, study for this test, pass that class, eventually graduate.

Now what?

My goals have all been met, the boxes checked. I graduated. I have a job. There are annual reviews, but it’s not the same as a grade, as a pass/fail.

I’ve been constantly evaluated my entire life up to this point. Now that the rest of my life is pretty open, I don’t know what my next goal is, that next thing I want to achieve.

But I guess there are still different tracks, like there was in high school. Some kids go to college, others start working, some start families. So I guess that’s where I am, 4 years later. Work on “settling down”? I already chose to work instead of continuing school, but I can always go back. But what if I want all of it? To be in the academic circles, to be successful in my career, and maybe even have someone to share it with? What are the small steps to reaching those goals? What are the deadlines?

The Loan People

Can we just talk about student loans for a minute? (Read: Can I just rant about this for more than a minute?)

In what universe does it make sense to go to a place for four (or sometimes five) years, and then spend the next ten paying for it? I just gave more money to my loan people than I will pay for rent, utilities, internet and coffee for the next month. I don’t have to give them that much, but I’d rather give them more money now than keep paying them in minimum payments for 10, or 15, or 20 years. Fortunately, I have a job that allows me to do that, but I’m also not paying into my 401k the way I probably should. All because of the damn loan people.

I get it. It’s not their fault. I wanted to go to college, and I wanted to go to one that didn’t have ‘community’ in the title. Is this what I get for being just the tiniest bit elitist? I’m now living the part of life I avoided talking or thinking about for the four years I was in school, and it kinda sucks. Paying bills and getting nothing in return feels like I’m just giving money away to some random, unknown thing. There’s not even an abstract idea here, like donating to a charity or investing in something.No fuzzy feeling or future gain. It’s not like a home or car loan, where I’m paying back the loan and if I don’t, I lose said car or house. I’m not currently using the thing I’m paying for. No, instead I pay rent to stay in my tiny apartment, I hope to all things holy and unholy that my car keeps moving so I don’t have to worry about that, and I pay the loan people for spending a majority of the last four years skipping class.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just now having the epiphany that I should have gone to class. I don’t regret a single class I skipped. My internships were far more valuable, and I’m proud to say I never missed a single day of work at any of them. It’s just amazing that I had to pay so much money to not go to class, and then earn the same grades as the kids who went to every single class. This is to say, of course, that grades matter and are an actual representation of how much was learned.. same grades = same amount of valuable knowledge, in theory, right? Shouldn’t I get a discount for getting that knowledge, while using up less of the professor’s time? No? Well shit.

I get it. I couldn’t get the job I have, and certainly not the job I’ll someday want, without this debt. Student loan debt isn’t a new concept, I also get that. Rising cost of education isn’t a new discussion. What I am just now realizing is that incoming freshmen don’t truly grasp what it is they’re getting themselves into when they apply for college and the coinciding loans. As a person who was 18 once, and was at one time willing to spend far, far more money on a school just because of the name and perceived prestige… I sure as hell wouldn’t have listened to any indebted 23-year-old. I didn’t, obviously. But what would I tell the 18-year-olds anyway? Don’t go to school? That’s stupid advice. Go to a cheaper school? That’s not necessarily good advice either. Don’t go to school until prices go down or until you can afford it?

I guess I don’t really have a point here. No bottom line, no real epiphany… it just sucks. That’s all there is to it.

“So, what do you do?”

Every time I see someone I haven’t talked to since I got my job, of course we ask each other what we’ve been up to. I tell them I graduated, got a job, live in a different part of the state, etc. Then they ask “So what do you do?” and I tell them my title, which like most titles, essentially means nothing. Sometimes they actually accept this as an answer, which is awesome, and maybe they ask what company I work for. Which, again, most people haven’t heard of most B2B companies so me telling them means nothing. They’ve heard of the main client I work for, but I can’t exactly tell them that so I continue being vague. If none of this is acceptable, they then ask something to the effect of “Soooo what does that mean? What do you actually do all day?”

Here’s the weird part for me. I have no idea. I mean yeah, I know what I do on a daily basis. I know what my job description is, vaguely. But, for example, I don’t know what to put on my resume. I never do. I mean, I know the tasks I do and what they’re used for, and in theory what the client uses them for. However, to anyone not in the industry, anything I say isn’t going to make sense. So I either ramble out some jargon about panels, verbatims, reporting specs, and testing scenarios, or I just say “I sit at a desk all day.” Neither of which actually answers their question, and it doesn’t sound the slightest bit glamorous, but neither is my job. And I get that I’m entry level, I really do. I understand that I’m just a glorified intern. And yet…I constantly feel like anything I do has no significance, no impact, and no value whatsoever.

That’s not exactly selling myself, is it?

Maybe if I was less ambitious this would all be ok. I would sit in my cubicle, put in my time, and wait until it was time to retire. Follow the suggested path, keep my head down, etc etc. I just can’t do that, though. On the other hand, I’ll be the first person to admit I can be a lazy piece of shit. Motivation eludes me for the better part of the day and maybe even week – but only when I’m not interested. If I can find a task or project that is challenging and interesting, then I also find it motivating. What I do now, is neither of those things. Some tasks, occasionally, yes. Any new things that break the monotony of my normal job routine, I will jump at the chance to tackle those projects on my own and I’ll spend all day trying to figure it out and how to do it well.

But how do I do that on a daily basis? Where is this magical job that makes me passionate about my work? Of course I understand there will always be good days and bad, but where’s the job that motivates me to do more than just kill time in my cubicle?

I love that I know things about economics and I even appreciate that I had to suffer through a few accounting classes, but that is what I really wish they would have taught me in college. How to find my perfect fit of what I’m good at and what I’m passionate about. I don’t know even how anyone would have taught such a thing…but I wish someone had. How do I figure out what I want? Once I do, how do I get there?

“Give it time,” they say. Maybe patience has just never been my strong suit, because I’m only 23 and I couldn’t be more restless.