college

A Smattering of Self-Expression

I never thought the day would come, but I actually miss writing self-reflection papers. Don’t get me wrong, they were usually miserable excuses for assignments, and I don’t think I learned a whit about myself writing them, but as far as college papers go, they got kind of fun. Once I figured out that I would get an A literally no matter what I wrote, as long as I wrote it well, the world kind of opened up. I badly paraphrased famous authors, I turned everyone I knew into anthropomorphic animals, I spent three pages ranting about the term “corrosive” and how it applied my current college situation. I even parodied a self-reflection paper in a self-reflection paper. It got fun. (more…)

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A Writer’s Defense of Rory Gilmore

Gilmore Girls fans everywhere are buzzing with excitement over the new four-episode Netflix continuation which, apparently, has a name now. Granted, we’ve been buzzing for so long, as they’ve been stringing us along for so long, giving us half a piece of information at a time, that it’s really just sort of an unconscious twitch at this point. Similar to the one caused by the eternal coffee addiction most of us have.

I recently finished the series for the… well, I don’t have to tell you how many times I’ve seen it. A few. But, like many people who are far too invested in the lives of these fictional characters, season 6 Rory drove me nuts. She’s selfish and entitled and makes dumb decision after dumb decision. My least favorite kind of person. This changes, of course, mid-season when she finally sees sense, makes up with Lorelai, follows somebody around until he gives her a job, and again becomes the all-around upstanding little bookworm we came to know and love.

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I was tempted to skip the episodes in which she acts like a spoiled brat, but her redemption is so much better if you slog through them. Plus Matt Czuchry is incredibly attractive. He makes them worth it.

Anyway, as I sit here looking for jobs to apply to, I can’t help but think of Rory in the newspaper office dogging her boss until he gives her a job. Why don’t I have that kind of motivation? I have everything else in common with Rory (except the whole innocent babydoll blue eyes that attract every living male within a fifty mile radius), so why am I not exerting that kind of effort, showing that kind of positivity, chasing what I want with that kind of calculated reckless abandon? Goodness knows I’m stubborn enough. Smart enough.

And then I realized: Rory had a break.

She took a semester off before she tried to get that job. She worked as an event planner for her grandmother. She lived on her own (sort of) without any worries. She took four months of doing next to nothing to figure out that she needed to keep some forward momentum.

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And she did figure it out, so good for her. But I get it.

She needed to quit in order to keep going. That story arc gave her the push she needed to continue on her self-motivated, upbeat path toward success.

I went from high school to college to searching desperately for a job. I overachieved in high school and became the valedictorian while on student council and in sports. I earned a full ride to college. I then overachieved in college, earning a 4.0 and writing a 213 page honors thesis on top of normal class work and two on campus jobs. I have taken no breaks. I have no real world job experience, and I have taken no breaks. I never needed to pay for college, so why wouldn’t I focus on schoolwork and everything that entails?

And now I’m freaking out.

I had so much forward momentum that, like Rory, when life started to feel aimless, I tripped over my own feet and landed face first in the dirt. Unfortunately I don’t have incredibly rich grandparents to get me through, so I still have to find a job. With the very little experience I gained in college. Which doesn’t look like much on a resume.

“I’m not even qualified for manual labor.”

At this point I’d be happy to work a job like Adventureland, but there aren’t any theme parks close enough to commute, and I wouldn’t make enough to live there. As a writer, I could do anything. All avenues are open to me. Which is overwhelming and not at all helpful in this whole job hunt thing. Google doesn’t respond well to “anything.” I’m mostly qualified for a lot of things but not quite perfectly qualified for anything. There’s no clear path I’m supposed to take. Uncertainty is the worst.

I can’t help but wonder if Rory would have needed that break had she not tried to be a writer.

I mean, obviously, on a practical level, if she weren’t a journalist, she wouldn’t have worked for Mitchum, etc. But other careers, even with people like Mitchum, have a more direct path to success. And writing puts you in touch with a very hopeless part of the human psyche. It takes a lot out of you. There are only so many words you can shout into the void before you realize what a useless pursuit it is you’re engaged in.

I think Rory’s voice got hoarse.

Her spirit was broken, yes, but that was the metaphorical final straw. With an intensely focused roommate going to either law school or med school–both very specific tracks–and a boyfriend who has his future laid out for him, she got overwhelmed and she got tired and her voice got hoarse from spewing words into the abyss. She realized the complete and utter subjectivity of writing and gave up. Briefly. And this is the only reason she’s still a well-loved character: because she came back.

And I applaud her for that. I certainly don’t feel like I have it in me. But, then again, neither did she when she quit college and quit writing and quit moving forward.

These episodes, hard as they are to watch, give me hope. Because as selfish and annoying and irresponsible as Rory is in these episodes, she finds her way back. She comes back more motivated and responsible and perky than ever, and she pushes her way to success. So here’s to you, Rory Gilmore, bookworm extraordinaire. If you can do it, so can I.

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A Liberal Arts Education

I’ve been a college graduate for a little over a week and so far I’ve managed to move home, almost redo my room, lay on the couch sick for a week, watch two seasons of The Fosters on Netflix, and receive a very vaguely worded rejection (probably?) from a job I applied to.

So J is not for job hunt.

Because it’s overwhelming and sad and I really don’t want to talk about it.

My face, as I search for jobs.

There aren’t many good words that start with J. I don’t really like the letter. I’m not sure why. There are plenty of good names that start with J, but very few good, deep, bloggable words. Maybe it’s just a lack of imagination on my part–that’s totally possible. My well of inspiration is running very dry.

So, with nothing better, J is for Jacques.

As in Prince Jacques, who wears aftershave to make people think that he’s older.


Can you blame him, though? Nobody’s going to take him seriously either way; he’s just trying to seem like the adult he feels like.

I get you, Prince Jacques.

Here I am, masquerading around as some kind of adult, crossing my fingers that people are going to take me seriously and not realize that I’m secretly an eight-year-old trapped in a college graduate’s body. I put on my makeup and my big girl clothes and I use fancy words to convince people I don’t regularly take time out of my day to color and nap and eat too much cake. Granted now I pair that cake with wine instead of milk, so does that make me a real adult? What’s the secret? When do you cross from “precocious” into “actual adult,” even though you feel exactly the same, possibly even less prepared than you did before you had to worry about whether you were actually prepared or not?

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“It’s the world’s dirty secret.”

Liberal Arts is quite possibly my favorite movie. This line is one of the reasons why. Josh Radnor looks back (realistically) on his liberal arts education and drops truth after truth in a funny/sad/beautiful way. I honestly can’t recommend this movie enough.

I guess J could be for Josh Radnor, too. He’s pretty cool. I think we’d be friends.

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(His parents actually do live in Ohio. He went to college in Ohio. The same college Liberal Arts was filmed at, actually. Fun facts.)

But seriously. I love both of his movies. They speak to my soul. And he just seems like a cool, down-to-earth dude. Here’s some things he said, if you don’t believe me.

If you’re out there, Josh, we should be friends. Either way, I’m a big fan.

I’ll leave you with a few of the best quotes from Liberal Arts before I go watch it:

“I like trees because they give us books.”

Nat: Want some good news?

Jesse Fisher: Yes, please.

Nat: Caterpillars… give me my hat… they’re just scooping along, right? Being caterpillars. At some point, these cells show up, called imaginal cells. Scientists don’t know where they come from or why they appear. These imaginal cells show up inside the caterpillar and say: “Get psyched, caterpillar! It’s butterfly-turning-into time!” And what do all the other caterpillars do once these imaginal cells show up?

Jesse Fisher: I have no idea.

Nat: They attack ’em! Try to kill ’em! They’re, like: “Screw you, imaginal cells. We’re happy being a caterpillar. Get lost!” But eventually, the imaginal cells keep growing and overtake the destiny of the caterpillar. They will be in this cocoon! And then guess what happens next?

Jesse Fisher: The caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

Nat: [repeats him excitedly] The caterpillar turns into a butterfly!

“You think it’s cool to hate things and it’s not. It’s boring.”

“Fortune never smiles on those who say no.”

“Don’t be a genius who dies young. Be one who dies old. Being old is cool. Grow old, and die old. It’s a better arc.”

So yeah, watch it. Love it.

P.S. Zac Efron is in it.

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Baccalaureate (Or, Things College has Taught Me)

It’s my last week of college. I’ve finished all undergrad classes and I only have three finals separating me from the all-encompassing void that is life after graduation. They say college is supposed to be the best years of your life. Don’t ask me who “they” are; I don’t actually know. But I really hope they’re not right. Because while I did some fun things in college, I hope I haven’t peaked.

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Me, talking to friends with plans.

I’m assuming I haven’t for the sake of hope and sanity, and, in that case, I’m not really sure what the point of college was. Sure, I’ve become a better writer, but I could have done that with any concentrated practice, and I’m not sure these four years were worth the piecrust promise of a well-paying job. I didn’t go to parties, I barely made friends… So, what what was the point? Learning, I hear the small voice in the back of my head say, the same one that told me writing a thesis was a good idea and that the one thing I said to that one guy four years ago was really dumb and he probably still remembers it. But, as usual, small voice, I think you have a point, even though I don’t want you to. So, what have I learned in college?

With the cram ‘n spam method of studying (cram the night before/ morning of, then pour every piece of irrelevant information you can remember into the essay test), you don’t retain a lot of information. So I remember random facts.

  • Lord Byron kept a bunch of pets, among which were a crocodile and a goat with a broken leg. He also bought the Greek revolution. Seriously.
  • Shakespeare was played in a movie by the same guy who plays Lestrade on BBC’s Sherlock.
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a marketing ploy.
  • Shakespeare’s plays are mostly dick jokes. Much Ado About Nothing is innuendo.
  • There’s an erotic retelling of Wuthering Heights. There’s also a children’s book version. About weather.
  • It takes approximately three minutes to read two pages of double-spaced, 12 point text. There are about 300 words per each double-spaced, 12 point page.
  • William Carlos Williams turned a refrigerator note into a poem and got famous for it.
  • There’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde musical. There is also a Wuthering Heights musical. More than one.
  • Celeste Ng spent six years on Everything I Never Told You.
  • Dr. Seuss hated children. Shel Silverstein wrote “A Boy Named Sue” as well as a song called “F*** it.”
  • Wassailing started as a bunch of drunk children breaking into houses and demanding food and money. Fa la la la la.

And that’s just the things I learned in classes. That doesn’t account for the random facts remembered because I heard them from people. I have a friend taking comparative anatomy and physiology, so I know a lot more than I wanted to, such as the anatomy of a cat testicle and the fact that humans have the potential to develop extra nipples on their thighs. I also learned that Michael from The Princess Diaries is the younger brother of Jason Schwartzman and is the frontman of a fairly successful band.

But I could regale you with random facts for a very long time. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. But I think I learned some solid life lessons in college as well.

I’ve learned that I can write a novel. More generally, I learned that I am more stubborn than I thought I was and that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if I end up wanting to tear my hair out. I also learned that I have good friends who will keep me from tearing my hair out.

I’ve learned that you can buy Long Island iced teas in a can. For under two dollars. They taste about as good as you think they would, but after about the fourth sip, you stop noticing. I’ve also learned what your basic cocktails have in them and even how to make some of them. I can now tell the difference between beers and can order without looking like a newbie. I’ve come to realize, though, that no one really knows everything about alcoholic drinks.

I’ve learned that getting a job is all about who you know.

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Me, trying to get a job.

I’ve learned that paint on asphalt in the rain has a bad reaction with Old Navy flip-flops, as proven many times over almost doing the splits in front of countless moderately attractive men.

I’ve learned that when two or more people planning weddings get together, they will talk about weddings. Then they will talk about their significant others, then living arrangements and lingerie and future plans. They will then talk about weddings again.

I’ve learned that while settling for the sake of being in a relationship isn’t the worst thing in the world (if you both have that mindset, anyway), be careful who and what you’re settling for. Someone who won’t hold your hand for newfound religious reasons isn’t worth it. Especially if the two of you have exactly two things in common, no more, no less.

I’ve learned that I’m capable of keeping a plant alive.

I’ve learned that everyone is a person. There is no hierarchy of humanity; everyone isn’t out to judge me and hold me to an impossible standard. There’s no exact formula for communication: no matter what you’re doing, you’re talking to a person, a person with feelings, with likes and dislikes, good days and bad days, self-esteem issues and constantly misspelled words and probably questionable fashion, and a bona fide sense of (often inappropriate) humor. I am as much a worthy member of society as anyone else.

I’ve learned that humility and self-deprecation aren’t the same thing.

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I’ve learned that you can’t fix people, and you can’t fix their problems. But you can give them coffee and chocolate and a safe space to vent or cry or sleep. Which helps.

I’ve learned that you’ll never regret putting people before work, but you’ll often regret putting yourself before your work. Sleep is not more important than that ten page paper due tomorrow. Netflix is not more important than that group project. But your friend’s life crisis is more important than both of those. And your professor will most likely understand and be lenient toward the latter.

I’ve learned that you won’t get what you won’t ask for. And if you’re offered something and you say no, it won’t often be followed by “are you sure?” My freshman year I was sitting alone in my room, hungry and single. An attractive guy knocked on my door and offered me a donut and, because it was my knee-jerk reaction, I said, “no, thanks.” He shrugged and left, and I regret that interaction to this day. If I had said yes, at the very least I wouldn’t have been hungry anymore, and at most I could be planning a wedding of my own right now. Ah well.

I’ve learned that attraction is a bitch.

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I’ve learned that “Hi, I’m Kristen, I don’t know you,” is a perfectly acceptable way to start getting to know someone. (It actually led to a relationship. Who knew.)

I’ve learned that if you care about a person, that conversation is worth having.

I’ve learned that finding ways to decompress and de-stress is incredibly important. Stress is bad for your body and bad for your mind and, in the long term, bad for your productivity. Yoga is good, as is drawing/painting, and walking, and crocheting, and purposefully watching movies–none of this trying to multi-task homework and entertainment. Multi-tasking important things just hurts your brain and leads to less things getting done.

I’ve learned that needing alone time doesn’t make you a bad person. Extraverts don’t have to understand. But you need to try to explain it anyway.

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But don’t you want to hang out?! Nope.

I’ve learned that coffee is not a substitute for food.

I’ve learned that the world was designed for people much dumber than I am. No one wants me to fail, especially not at ordinary everyday tasks.

I’ve learned that you can’t fight over text. Well, I suppose you can, but it’s the exact opposite of productive.

Most of all, I’ve learned that communication is underrated. For goodness’ sake, don’t be passive aggressive. If you have a problem, address it. If you want something, ask for it. If someone is doing something good, tell them, even if it’s just a great choice of socks. If you want to talk to someone, talk to them. Don’t let fear keep you from saying hello. Don’t let a miscommunication turn into a fight or a ruined relationship.

College is about growing into a person. And I think I’ve learned that it’s acceptable just to be a good one.

This has been a PSA.

Eff It All

Well, the first week of my last semester of college has come and gone, and I’m resigning myself to the fact that my constant state of being for the next four months will be tired, stressed, and surviving. So, with that in mind,

F is for eff it.

As in, “Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” (If I were a book, it would be Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Or possibly Good Omens. Both wonderful reads. I’m not biased at all.)

As in, keeping up most relationships is more trouble than it’s worth.

As in, conversely, my plan to avoid all but like five people this semester is going terribly. I’ve had plans with different people every single night so far. And dare I say I’ve enjoyed it? I’m exhausted, sure, but I don’t like being alone. Might as well make the most of college. So my plan has changed. Rather than avoid everyone, I’ve resolved not to unduly dislike anyone. It’ll take some work, but I hope it’ll turn out worth it. If people want to be my friend, I might as well be theirs. I’m too tired to hold pointless grudges this semester. For the most part.

As in, I spent all day yesterday at a bridal show with my best friend and seeing that many happy couples made me want to vomit. If you had enough patience, a bridal show would be a great place to pick up chicks. Because all the single bridesmaids are there with their soon-to-be-married friends, surrounded by things meant for couples, and already used to writing their name and phone number on things. It’s pretty much foolproof. If only I could have run into the cute male model from the weirdly upbeat fashion show.

As in, I WANT TO BE DONE WITH MY THESIS.

As in, I’m supposed to have a writing portfolio completed in about three months and I have next to nothing that’s not the novel I’ve been writing since June. And I can’t decide if I care.

As in, a coffee addiction is only detrimental if your heart stops, right?

As in, my priorities this semester are having fun and getting thin, but everything is enough of a priority that they all have to get done. If everything is a priority, is anything? Is it possible for me to stay sane right now? I have my doubts.

As in, it’s much more fun to get organized than it is to do the things you just organized.

As in, caring about things takes too much effort. I’m not a robot, but I want to be. Life would be infinitely easier if I were as task oriented, practical, and emotionless as I pretend to be.

As in, I have no idea what I’m doing after graduation and it’s terrifying and I’m occasionally crippled by panic but I’m not actually worried about it.

As in, eff you.

As in, I don’t actually know how to say eff it and then follow through. Like the character in Dirk Gently’s Holisitic Detective Agency, my life is a constant cycle of this: “That was it. That was really it. She knew that she had told herself that that was it only seconds earlier, but this was now the final real ultimate it.” Until the next time.

As in, I can think the unthinkable. I can do the undoable. I can grapple with the ineffable itself. And we’ll see what comes of that.

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