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?

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Feminism in Limbo: Chapter 6

In college I took an Organizational Behavior class as part of the business school curriculum. The class was too easy; the grade based entirely on 3 multiple-choice exams that were based entirely on the textbook. I went to class anyway, because the professor was amazing, funny, and had wonderful stories to tell.

But one thing that stuck out from that class, was a chapter on gender and a very distinct difference between the genders I’d never really noticed before, but it made sense. (I’m paraphrasing a bit and it’s been awhile, so bear with me). Women, when they complain or have a problem, typically want sympathy or someone to listen to them. Men expect a solution. So when a woman is telling you about their awful day, and then this guy is trying to solve the problem, when all she wants is someone to empathize with her… or vis-versa, a man is telling a female about his awful day, and he wants the problem to go away, but this girl is just giving him all this sympathy he doesn’t want. You can see where this could lead to frustration.

The professor then went on to explain why this happens, why the difference exists (again, paraphrasing):

When a little kid falls down, parents (dads especially), will often treat a boy differently than a girl. If their little girl falls down, a dad will rush to the rescue, and make sure everything is ok. If a boy falls down, dad will tell him to get up and brush it off, maybe even say something like “dirt don’t hurt” and expect the boy to be on his way. This make girls accustomed to receiving sympathy when they fall, and boys are just told to get up, you’ll feel better, problem solved.

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My dad, seen in the picture holding me over a fence (which I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do) wasn’t that kind of dad. If my brother fell down, Dad told him to get up and brush it off. If I fell down, I was told the exact same thing. At times, I sort of hated him for this. If anything, my dad pushed me a lot harder than he pushed my brother – whether academics, or sports, or other hobbies – he was always telling me where I could be better. I got an A; he’d ask why I didn’t get an A+. My team won a soccer game; he told me I looked a little tired toward the end, and I should get myself in better shape.

This gets to be exhausting after awhile. I just wanted to be celebrated for my accomplishments, not told it wasn’t good enough. That’s what I heard, every time he would ask why it wasn’t an A+.

I didn’t hear “you’re smart enough to have the top grades in all your classes,” instead I heard “this isn’t good enough.”

Now I’m an adult and understand why he did those things. A lot of people I know now who are successful, had a parent who was rough on them and was kind of an asshole. By default, kids (especially smart ones) can be lazy. They know they can be. They don’t have to study for the test, or ask questions to understand the homework. It pisses people off, but it’s true. So without that constant effing nagging – they’d continue to be lazy for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think my dad knew the ripple effect of what he was doing. The bar wasn’t set at “you did well for a girl,” but it was “did you come in absolute first place, boys or girls?” He was going to set the bar as high as possible, and not bring it down just because of my gender. He knew I was a smart kid, and wanted to make sure I reached my full potential. I was the first child, and I’m sure that’s a lot of the reason the bar was so high. It didn’t matter to my dad that I was a girl. He wouldn’t have been disappointed if my brother had been a girl, either. Even though my dad was the last chance for carrying on the family name, and without my brother the name would have died, he didn’t care. There was a lot of pressure from the family for my dad to have a boy.

“I was too worried about having a healthy baby, I didn’t care what it was as long as it was healthy,” he used to tell us. But, to the satisfaction of my aunts, a boy was born. So now the pressure is on my brother, I guess.

Even more powerful, it wasn’t because I was a girl that my dad was a pain in my ass. It was because I was smart, because I had the potential to do something real. He understood I’d have to deal with a lot worse if I was going to be a smart, successful, powerful woman someday. But he did it because he wanted his children to succeed – boy or girl.

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.

Cautionary Tale – With Wine

This is a long read. So I’ve opened a bottle of wine. It’s pretty great – Malbec is my new favorite red. But if you’re someone with a short attention span – start at the quote and just read the few sentences after that.

I promised I would tell you how I got to this place, over 70 miles away from most my friends. “This place” happens to be a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Not someplace I would have chosen ordinarily. It has it’s own kind and charm, but…my wanderlust seeks bigger and better and different things.

Once upon a time... no, that’s too much, let’s try again:

Once, I was in high school. Specifically, I was sorta-kinda-talking-to a boy in the winter of my senior year of high school and simultaneously trying to decide where to go to college at the same time. Being the intelligent, mature high schooler that I was at the time, I waited to officially date the boy and fall for the boy until I had made a decision on where to spend the next four years in college. I didn’t want this boy clouding my judgement.

As it turned out, I chose the school geographically closer to the boy and to our hometown, so I decided to fall for and date the boy. I didn’t think we’d date for very long, but then somehow we were still together when I graduated high school, and when I left for college. Three and a half years later we were still together. Then, we started making plans for after I graduated. I’d find a job and move somewhere near his seemingly permanent location, a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Since I’d be living up there, it would just make financial sense for us to move in together.

Before we made it to the four year mark, he decided that just wasn’t going to work for him. He didn’t want to move in with me right away, he said. Then he decided he didn’t want to move in with anyone, ever, that it wasn’t my fault. Now it’s just a month and a half before I graduate college and I am “…” <— this close to landing a job. Near his bankrupt rust belt city no less. Then, he decides we shouldn’t be together, since he doesn’t think he can truly, fully commit to anyone, ever. It’s not my fault, of course. It’s all him. I’m just too nice or selfless or sweet or something. And he’s the asshole who doesn’t deserve me. Of course, he won’t ever change. Even for cute, sweet, selfless me. So I get this job near his godforsaken city because it’s the only place I looked for jobs. Suddenly, instead of looking for apartments that my boyfriend and our two incomes can afford, I’m grumpily looking for sad studio apartments in less exciting suburbs. The boy I have followed has left me. I’m just alone in this suburb of a city I never wanted to be a part of. I’m in a new state so I have to get a new driver’s license, my insurance goes up, and I can’t afford to get a dog. Which is really the one thing I wanted when I graduated and was living on my own.

Even worse – I’ve always had wanderlust. I grew up in various parts of the Midwest, went to college in the Midwest… I wanted to get out of the fucking Midwest! Don’t get me wrong, the Midwest can be spectacular. But I just wanted a chance to get out, even just for a minute, while I still can.

I used to be unapologetic. I used to be unrelentingly independent and opinionated. There was a time when I wouldn’t even think of allowing another person (especially a boy) telling me what I could and couldn’t do. Where I could live. Yet, I let this one boy do just that. For some reason, I thought the ‘happily ever after’ would justify everything. I thought, sure, I could sacrifice this one small thing for him. Because no, I don’t have a reason to live anywhere else, I just really want to leave the Midwest. He has aging parents and other “reasons” for staying in his home state. I thought…I don’t know, I thought I was done dating forever and I was sort of cool with that. So I tried to quiet my wanderlust.

But, turns out, I’m not done dating. Turns out, he’s just a medium-sized blimp in my long-ish dating history. Maybe he’s a fairly important footnote, but still just a footnote in the overall text. Now I’m in “this place” and I wish I had sacrificed less, whether we ended up together or not. Now that I’m no longer with him, I realize I lost a part of myself in that relationship. Mostly, I lost four years of my life. Was it truly a complete waste? No, probably not. I did learn a lot about myself. Mostly I learned some of what I ultimately want and deserve in my next relationship(s). I also learned and realized I need to return to being unapologetic. Also importantly, I’m starting to figure out what I want out of the person I ultimately decide (if I decide) to marry. Between the failed relationships and all of my Tinder/dating experiences since this relationship, that list is starting to become a weird collection of things. If nothing else, it’s at least one step forward in answering the question ‘what do I want?’ in one small facet of my life.

So – bottom line – ladies and men alike… don’t give all you have to a significant other. Or a friend, or family member for that matter (maybe kids are an exception, I’m the opposite of an expert on that topic). It’s just not going to be good for you in the end. Especially if the other person won’t do the same for you. Compromising to make you both happy is one thing…pretending to be something you just aren’t is another thing entirely. I gave so much time and effort into a relationship and to a person who…who knows, maybe he did care and just sucked at showing it, but either way wasn’t willing to make any sacrifices for me while I was making plenty for him. He didn’t care enough, and not to the extent I expect and deserve. As my grandfather, a wise old man, would say:

You gotta look out for number 1, because number 2 won’t.

Look out for yourself. Do what’s going to be good for you, not for them. Be a little hedonistic from time to time and do what makes you happy. Because, ultimately – who else is going to look out for you, if not yourself?

A Special Kind of Limbo

I’m going to start with this disclaimer: I’ve never been very good at blogging.

I used to love writing and maybe even got good at it for awhile, but I usually can’t keep up with the same topic for long. Similarly, I could never get through the whole month of NaNoWriMo and actually end up with a novel. At best I’d have a very detailed outline, a beginning, and some short stories. But no novel.

So why the hell am I doing this? Well, in a sentence: I have to do something.

I’m 23 and just graduated with a business degree. I’m one of the few lucky unicorns to find a job out of school. This all sounds great, except I live over 70 miles away from most of my friends. (why would I do such a thing? we’ll talk about it in a later post, I promise). What I’m doing for my job is fine, but it’s certainly not my dream job, if there is such a thing. So I go to work where I’m basically a glorified intern with benefits, go back to my 495 sq ft apartment, and watch Netflix until I fall asleep. Sometimes I go to the gym or try to eat a vegetable or two. Sometimes I go on dates. Sometimes I just wander around my new city.

Ultimately, I imagine some of you are in the same weird place I am. Maybe the limbo you’re in is your current dating situation, your career, a general question of “who am I?” or something else entirely. Maybe the limbo is all three.

I’m going to ramble and rant and maybe make you feel less alone. I’ll probably swear a lot and make some grammar mistakes (if I haven’t already. And for the record – not because I don’t know the grammar, but because I believe voice is important in a blog). I have a weird and wide collection of interests from reading and soccer to economics and travel. I’m also a bit of a feminist and incredibly sarcastic so that’s bound to show up. I’ll try to break up the text with pictures of my tiny apartment, cooking experiments, and corgis.

I won’t tell you what you’re thinking, but I know what I’m thinking: “shit, I’m just another millennial kid with a blog, super original.” Who knows. Maybe it doesn’t have to be original, maybe all the original blogs are taken. Maybe as I figure out what makes me original, I can start to figure out what I really want, and even get out of this limbo. Maybe.