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.

Sometimes, Life Isn’t Fair.

Once upon a time I was drunk and feeling defeated about my current situation, so I wrote a letter. I almost even posted it, or sent it, or something – but I guess I was sober enough to realize it might have been a bad idea. Just to give you an idea…

Dear Fuckface,

I gave you the best four years of my life. Four years of college and I stayed faithful to you. I was surrounded by boys in their prime who hadn’t yet let themselves go, by boys willing to shower me with compliments and free drinks. Boys who would’ve maybe even given me more than that. Boys who would’ve given up so much for me, for my dreams, for my bullshit whims. Given up things the way I did for you.

I fucking hated leaving my friends behind every goddamn weekend to come see you when all you did was sit there with your roommate and play video games. Great, that’s exactly what I wanted to miss the big game or the party for, to watch you play some stupid fucking game.

And ever since he broke up with me, that’s all I would think about when I thought about that relationship – the fact that he took the best four years of my life. Like he was some sort of thief, he took them from me without warning. I could get over the fact that he would choose his smoking habit over me if there was ever an ultimatum; the fact that I was essentially worth nothing to him. Because those are his issues, and not mine. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. The relationships I had been in since then have been enough to boost my self esteem and get over that. It’s the wasted time I couldn’t get over.

But now that I’ve been an adult for a full year now (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds), I think maybe I was wrong.

I think I have yet to see my best four years. Even this past year, I’ve crammed enough blackouts into one summer that I’m not upset about missing out on those in college. I’ve done a lot of things I never thought I’d ever get to do. Basically – the rest of my 20s could be like college, except with more money to burn and less Thirsty Thursdays. Or I could use my twenties to build an incredible career for myself. Or I could travel to places that would be impossible once (if) I have kids. The possibilities are only limited by my meager income and student loan debt but otherwise completely limitless!

So, he didn’t take my best four years. He got my stressed-out, broke-ass, freshmen-fifteen years instead. I got some of his worst years, too. We saw each other at our worst, and now someone else will get to see me at my best. Without him weighing me down I feel like I can do anything.

Despite this new revelation, it still doesn’t seem fair to me that I missed out on a lot of things in college because of him. But, as my father would say:

Life.

Are you okay? What do you want? Why aren’t you happy?

After months of not knowing, maybe I’ve finally figured it out.

I just want one goddamn thing in my life to make sense. To be a constant. Something reliable, something I’m good at, something that makes me feel good.

I had that, I had a rock (a stone, maybe only a pebble), for four years. As much as I hate that rock for dragging me down during college and then letting go at the worst possible moment, I don’t know if I could have make it through the uncertainty of college without that rock. The longer I had my rock, my pebble, the more I relied upon him. And sometimes, honestly, that rock wasn’t very good at being solid, at being there for me. (Maybe he was really more of a squishy, flaky pebble) But at least the pebble was predictable and made sense. I knew what to expect. I knew where my life with this squishy pebble was going, even if I didn’t know where other parts of my life were going. I had this squishy pebble to hold on to, even if he wasn’t always holding on to me in the same way, or wasn’t capable of being in love with me the same way all the time. At least he was there. So since he left I still haven’t been able to get solid footing, despite being over him. It was the constant he provided that I’m still trying to figure out. Up until now I’ve been trying to figure out my dating life, find a replacement squishy pebble. What I need now, though, is more than that – I need a solid rock this time.

Maybe my rock this time doesn’t have to be a relationship. It probably won’t be my job, not for awhile, but it could be something else. There’s more to life than boys and careers, right? I suppose friends and family are constants – but not in the same way. There’s a sort of obligation for them to stick around; rocks by default aren’t the same as rocks by choice.

In that same vein, I don’t believe in doing things like taking a year to “work on myself”. I don’t believe I should avoid dating just because I need to find a constant that doesn’t involve a boy. I don’t believe in forgoing one thing because I need to focus on something else. Maybe it’s my “I can do it all” mentality or the fact that I wouldn’t know where to start with something like ‘focusing on my career’. But regardless, I don’t believe in exclusion.

The rock doesn’t always have to be a boy, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be a person, really. I just need a constant, a more solid rock this time. No more squishy pebbles.

Maybe this blog is a start. I think before the squishy pebble, writing was the thing for me that made sense. Maybe this time it’ll be my ever-growing love of wine and food, or the ever-more habitual exercise routine. I don’t know. I just know I need something, a rock to orbit my life around. Something, anything – that makes the rest of my uncertain life make sense.

Life Advisor?

What’s the adult, real-life version of an academic advisor? Ya know, the person who tells you that you’re doing awesome, and then tells you exactly what classes to take next semester? They look at your resume, and tell you you’re awesome, but give you small tweaks to make your resume reflect that awesomeness, and make you seem even more awesome? Is there a life advisor somewhere I’m not aware of?

About a year ago, when I was sitting through Alumni Days – listening to successful, graduated alumni talk about life after college – one of them said something that just recently sort of hit me.

There are no semesters, no constant evaluation in life. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing to break up the monotony. In college – while it could be brutal – there were breaks. There were finals (brutal) but then you were done, and then you went to new classes with new people and new professors and new topics. Now, there are intense deadlines (brutal) but no breaks, and on Monday I return to the same tasks, with the same people, working on the same project. Nothing actually changes, nothing moves forward…

In college, once you pass XYZ1000, you move on to XYZ2000. You fail that class? Oh it’s cool, just take it again.

In life, you manage to complete something, and then you have to do that thing again. And again. And again. Maybe some small things are different, maybe after a year (or several…usually several) maybe, maybe, you get promoted and get to make more money to do those things. But fuck something up? You could get fired. You don’t get to try it again.

Essentially, the consequences for fucking up are greater, but the rewards are lesser. And there are no life advisors to tell you you’re awesome, or which projects to take on, or what the hell to do about your resume. Instead, the other adults just… let you flail around out there, watching you squirm. They probably enjoy it, too. Buncha jerks.

Sunday Morning

In school, Sunday was spent reliving the weekend while dreading Monday and the rest of the week. More bitter than sweet, Sunday was a day of finishing assignments or studying for the coming week and other tasks I had neglected the previous week.

Now, Sundays aren’t so bad. Between working (and working late) during the week, and traveling all over the state on weekends, Sunday is my one day. Even if I’m not busy Monday-Thursday, after work I barely make it to the gym let alone feel like doing things I actually enjoy. Somehow after sitting in my cubicle for 8+ hours all I want to do after work is sit some more and watch Netflix. I don’t even feel like reading, and I like reading! Fridays after work I’m usually scrambling to pack my bag for the weekend to see my parents, or to go see friends the next state over. Sometimes I’m scrambling to clean my apartment for the rare occurrence someone is coming to see me that weekend. Or I’m scrambling to get ready for a date, on occasion. Either way – Friday is full of scrambling. Saturdays are always fun, at least. Whether it’s a chill day with my family or a day-long birthday extravaganza full of alcohol from noon until midnight, it’s good. But Sundays. That’s my day.

I don’t go to church, but Sundays are my religion. I’m truly free on Sundays. There are no obligations; no one makes social plans on Sundays and being out of the homework cycle leaves me to do whatever I want. I sleep in, I drink coffee all day, I write. I get to be my introverted self without judgement. It’s my reset day: I can clean, I can spend half the day making a meal that may (or may not) turn out to be incredible, or I can stay in bed with a book all day. I can be quiet, barely turning on the TV. Or I can be loud, music blasting. I can sit in a coffee shop and watch people without saying a word all day, I can talk to myself as I drive around, or I can call everyone I know. Or I can stay in bed all day.

Daily meditation might be recommended, but who has time for that? A good Sunday is enough to get me through the week.

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.

Making Friends

I’m not going to lie to you. You’re in a really strange place right now. Arguably the weirdest time of your life. I don’t know what to tell you, but you will figure it out eventually. Somehow, it just happens. -A.

I have a favorite barista. She’s been my favorite for a very, very long time. Since I started drinking coffee out of both habit and necessity, A. has been there to further my addiction.

A. was also a friend and mentor to me in high school – she was very involved in a lot of the discussions I had about where to go, what to study, etc. She eventually hired my brother to work in the coffee shop because he’s related to me (and probably because he was well-qualified, I’m sure). So A. and I occasionally stayed in touch when I went to college, but not nearly as close as we were when I was in high school. Then I graduated, and after a few months of being on my own I happened to be in her area and surprised her at the new coffee shop she opened. I told her life in general was great, getting a job right out of school and all that. Except…after being in a new place, all alone, for a certain amount of time… I realized I was constantly going back to my hometown or my alma mater to meet up with my friends from high school and college. I suddenly realized I was unable to make friends in my new situation.

“But really, how do adults make friends?” was the question I kept asking myself. Sure, I had coworkers and they were great but also most of them were married with kids and not exactly open to my still-favorite weekend pastime of drinking like a college student. Plus – do I really want to hang out with these people outside of work, too? I get to see them 40 hours a week… shouldn’t I have separate friends for evenings and weekends? Perhaps these other friends should be people who don’t have children, and therefore a lifestyle more similar to mine? Where do I find these people?

For me, what makes this whole process even more difficult is how introverted I am. Unless I’m somewhat drunk or in a super-rare talkative and outgoing mood, I’m not going to just walk up and talk to someone. Small talk isn’t something I do if possible. If you’re a fellow introvert, you get it. If you’re an extrovert, go read Quiet by Susan Cain (or if you don’t want to commit that kind of time, watch her TED talk). So even if I did want to go to a bar alone, where other people my age and with my same interests were hanging out…I wouldn’t be able to say hello anyway.

Another option could be that I could join a sports team, either something I’ve played before and am halfway decent at (soccer) or I could try something completely new (any other sport ever) and fail miserably. Either way, I’m embarrassingly out of shape and that’s no way to make a good first impression on my new friends!

My mom suggested I could get a second job, which did not appeal to me in the slightest. But still, I entertained the idea. Eventually I decided to volunteer as a soccer coach, for something to do. But that didn’t really result in any friends…just met some cool parents and their cool kids. Neither of which fall into the category of friends I’m looking for.

I moved up here in May, it’s now the following January… and I still find myself driving an hour or more to go hang out with friends. I eventually decided to join the company indoor soccer team, so at the very least I’ll meet people who work at my company, but whom I wouldn’t normally see every day. That almost counts, right?

Maybe this will lead to something, or at least help me figure out how to make friends in my own introverted way.