Swan Song

Why work so hard when you could just be free?

-Lana Del Rey

A little over a year ago, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree.

Six months ago, I decided to start researching MFA programs.

The problem: what do you do when you’re no longer an undergraduate, but not yet a graduate (student)?

Much like coping with any kind of loss, I went through several emotional milestones when transitioning out of academic life.

 

The first milestone: realization.

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The real world is, unfortunately, not as accommodating as the college town that seemed to be filled with endless Starbucks shops and social events with free food. There’s no longer a professor who will set deadlines or stay after class to help me work through my writer’s block. And, worse yet, it’s exponentially more difficult to make myself produce work (which is not included with a liberal arts degree, unfortunately).

 

 

The second milestone: regret.

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“Should I have majored in accounting?” -after talking to my traditionally successful college roommate.

“Should I have become a surgeon?” -usually only during Sunday night Grey’s Anatomy binges.

“Should I have become a scuba diving instructor?” -when I’m feeling particularly lethargic.

 

 

The third milestone: anxiety.

This often manifests as a mild form of impostor syndrome. There have been too many late nights where I lie wide-eyed in bed after reading an incredible short story and wrestle with the knowledge that I will never create art to rival it. Even browsing websites contemporary writers can be panic-inducing and knock out any hope of sitting down and writing 100 words (I was never good at endings, so micro fiction eases the blow). It’s much easier to not try than to try, fail, and wallow in the tears that every rejection letter brings.

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The fourth milestone: productivity.

Finally, I beat that eight month writer’s block! Hello, Pushcart Prize nominations! By some stroke of luck (this time, brought on by Sally Rooney’s Mr Salary) I’ve found the inspiration to write again. The world will no longer go without my voice, for it has been deprived too long already. I’ll send my stories out to as many journals as I can because I am that talented and it’s about time someone notices. No more Netflix for me!

 

The fifth milestone: anxiety (again).

The first of, presumably, many rejection emails arrives. I break down in an Arby’s parking lot but eat the tear-stained roast beef sandwich anyway. The grease from the curly fries smudges my phone screen and, instead of deleting the email, I accidentally forward it to my Yahoo, second Gmail, and school accounts. Perhaps the emotional trauma will fuel my secret belief that I am a once-in-a-generation writer who will never be understood in my time.

Just like Emily Dickinson.

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Since completing the Big 5 (a term I hope will catch on) I have bought two new books, lost 10 pounds through working at a summer camp, and started looking for jobs to really establish my place in the world. Still working on getting the endings of things down. I clearly have a long way to go.

I really should have become an accountant.

Even if I don’t understand how math works.

New Year, New You!

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I know what you’re thinking: not. another. 2017. post. So boring!

For some people, celebrating the new year symbolizes a chance to start over.If that’s not you, then congratulations! You’re perfect and never eat more than the recommended serving size. However, people like me that I know may have gained 30 pounds over the summer, or accidentally cut off a chunk of your own hair when trimming their clip-on bangs, or gone on an online shopping binge when drunk at home on New Year’s Eve.

Accidents happen, but there past is in the past. If you want a fresh start for the new year, follow my fool-proof tips to make 2017 the best one yet!

 

1. #KonMari your entire life.

Start with your closet but don’t stop there! Marie Kondo’s “less is more” approach was a big hit with celebrities and magazines in 2016. Follow her example: if something doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. Clear out your closet so thoroughly that you’re only left with a pair of jeans, two shirts, and enough underwear to last a week. Delete old friends from Facebook who don’t agree with your political views. Throw out old makeup, instantly realize that you will look terrible at your friend’s upcoming wedding without it, then spend $150 to replace your missing products at Target.

If you bought Marie Kondo’s book and managed to stop yourself from throwing that out while cleaning, strategically place it on your IKEA coffee table and take a picture for Instagram! #KonMari #NewYearNewMe #2017

2. Make that Vision Board!

If anyone tells you they aren’t effective, unfriend them from Facebook (see #1). The most important part of making your 2017 Vision Board is that you spend as much time as possible on it. If that means missing a few days of work, then so be it. This is an investment in your future! If your boss doesn’t understand this, make a note to include “FIND NEW JOB” along with your other manifestations.

The key elements to the perfect Vision Board are: a complementary color scheme (ideally incorporating some form of rose gold), including pictures of people you find attractive, making the pictures as symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing as possible (think of it as the bullet journal of cut-and-glue art projects), and make sure to have a photographer on hand to capture the journey!

3. Establish your brand.

One of the best methods to becoming a happier person is to establish a strong and enviable social media presence. In 2017, anything less than 100 likes on an Instagram picture means you basically don’t exist (as someone who consistently gets around 10 likes, I can vouch for this). So establish your brand!

Make a website and start a blog with a catchy title (I’ve found that alliteration, puns, and foreign words test well with target audiences).

Spend every friend’s wedding taking pictures for your Instagram and Snapchat story.

Make a Myspace account, then post a screenshot of it on Facebook and call yourself “#retro.”

Engage with any celebrity who has a verified Twitter account. 140 characters aren’t much, but they’re all you’ll need to get involved in some sort of scandal and get #(YourNameHere)sucks trending. When that happens, update all social media bios to read:

“Noticed by @(CelebrityName) in 2017!”

Things I Didn’t Learn in Public School

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I really hope the three people who read this blog appreciate my latest post because it will take me about three hours to finish typing it.

Why is this?

Because I am a grown-up who no longer types solely with her two index fingers. I am now a practicing touch typist. This means, mainly, that until my fingers adjust to no longer sitting lazily on the keyboard while two of them do all the work, I am typing at the rate of 15 wpm (for non-transcriptionists, that translates to words per minute). This also means that every mistake I make while typing sets me back about 3.5 minutes.

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As I set out to accomplish my dream of becoming an accomplished touch-typist (and later, a transcriptionist, and ultimately, a receptionist), I have one thought buzzing around in my tired head: why wasn’t I taught the proper way to type in public school?

Not to sound spoiled, but honestly. In my twelve years of attending various stages of public schooling, I learned:

  • How to sit in an assigned seat
  • How to ask my parents for extra lunch money so I could get the Red Baron personal pizzas for lunch instead of the chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes
  • How to get from one end of the hallway to the other in under 4 minutes
  • How to spell antidisestablishmentarianism
  • How to formally request to go to the bathroom
  • How to explain to the school nurse that no, my stomachache is NOT period pain, I really do have to go home for this
  • The geography of Belarus
  • That showing your stomach/shoulders/knees/thighs/upper back/lower back/neck/elbows/inner ear/ankles/hair roots/gums/armpits would render boys completely useless and unable to function and the only way to prevent this was to remained covered at all times (this restriction does not necessarily apply to religions that preach the same level of modesty)
  • How to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every weekday morning at 8:00 a.m
  • a^2 + b^2 = c^2 ,

It’s a long list, I’ll admit. It’s not bad for twelve years. But then, to be fair, I have to consider all those things I did not learn, such as:

  • How to stop watching Netflix and start writing that paper that’s due in 30 minutes
  • How to send a professional email to professors/prospective employers
  • How to eat a balanced diet
  • How to fit an exercise routine into a busy schedule
  • An interesting answer to “What’s your biggest weakness?”
  • How to balance a checkbook
  • Some type of skill to fall back on (like sewing! or coaching a sport! or juicing!)
  • How to change a tire
  • How to file your taxes
  • Critical thinking
  • How to identify misogyny/racism/homophobia in professional and personal environments
  • ACTUAL knowledge of different belief systems and their major texts (and no, one rushed week of learning about the origins of Islam and three out of hundreds of Hindu gods does not cover that)
  • How to say “no” to unfair requests and unreasonable work environments
  • How to create a budget and live within it
  • How to not get involved with a cult, no matter how many big words the cute leader will recite to you
  • How to type with more than two fingers at a time

Is public school a waste? In a word, no.

In an honest word, yes.

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And, if that’s not depressing, just think: I finished school before Common Core was implemented.

My Name is Carrie

I’m so very fly-oh-my, it’s a little bit scary.

-Keri Hilson

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this picture is here to prove I go outside and do things

I was completely shocked pleasantly surprised to find that someone left a really nice comment on my latest post. To paraphrase the wise words of the complete stranger Ashley’s grandfather:

You have a wonderful ability with words and make the reader think he/she is looking over the shoulder of a younger Carrie Bradshaw. Isn’t that a good thing? Keep your fingers attached to the keyboard for the good of all mankind!

This comment gave me a couple of things to consider:

  1. Maybe some people actually read these posts?
  2. I have unknowingly set a high standard for myself…
  3. I can’t get away with throw-away posts anymore!
  4. I have to start livening up my life to keep things interesting!
  5. If I produce sub-par writing, will people lose interest?
  6. I can’t lose any of the few followers I do have!!
  7. Should I re-dye my hair?
  8. I’m too close to getting my name out in the world…
  9. Red dye fades so quickly….
  10. I will do whatever it takes to stay interesting.
  11. I’ll either die relevant, or live long enough to become unimportant.
  12. I need to dye my hair before Halloween.
  13. I have to give my cousin Emma something to “Woo hoo!” about!
  14. I should totally be Carrie Bradshaw for Halloween.

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I’ve actually been a little conflicted about what I’m going to wear for Halloween this year (which includes both this weekend and next weekend; my friends think that is not accurate, but I’m pretty sure most places in the First World celebrate two weekends worth of Halloween. Is  Christmas only one day long? No, it’s an entire month. Case and point). Last year I recklessly blew $50 on a costume to validate my self-esteem that I only wore for one night, but this year I’m feeling a bit too well-adjusted to wear it again (which definitely has nothing to do with the weather dropping down to the 50’s these past few weeks). I’ve already considered dressing as a number of quirky ladies from various movies and TV shows: Frances from Frances Ha, Hannah Horvath from Girls, Cher from Clueless, Anna Karina from any movie starring Anna Karina.

I could pull off Carrie Bradshaw. I’m edgy, a little bit self-centered, a writer, a user of sometimes poorly-timed puns, and I have ridiculously curly hair that looks terrible in a bob.

Do I look like her?

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I wouldn’t say that I DON’T not look like her.

Maybe instead of dying my hair “True Red” again, I should lighten things up a bit and go light-brown because that worked so well when I tried over summer and the dye only stuck to my roots. I already know the outfit I’d be re-creating: the infamous tutu and tank-top she runs around New York in during the opening credits.

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how Carrie Bradshaw looks in a tutu

I’m not really sure where to buy a tutu from, to be honest. I spent the last ten minutes searching for one online and the only ones I could find were either A) ugly or B) $100 plus. Do I look like I have that kind of money?

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how I will probably look in a tutu

If I’m going to drop that much money on something for a Carrie Bradshaw costume, it’s going to be on a pair of Manolo Blahniks.

Am I right?

The only real flaw that can’t be overcome with a sewing machine and a lot of tulle is that I’m not sure how many college students (AKA my main audience) are going to understand who I am. I’m not about to wear a nametag (or could I?) and I don’t think there’s much that could be used to accurately identify her.

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Oh well, that’s a job for a future version of me to figure out.

Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb

Hello world, I’m your wild girl.

-The Runaways

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If you were to walk into an interview tomorrow, there’s a good chance you will at some point hear: “So, tell me about yourself.” That might be the impossible question…where are you supposed to begin?

Earlier in my French class, we learned how to describe personalities. Am I funny? Are you athletic? Is he selfish? I like to think that I’m self-aware enough to realize my own hubris, so this lesson was one I took to heart.

To help us practice the new vocabulary, my professor pulled up pictures of four celebrities: Justin Bieber, Nelson Mandela, Lady Gaga, and Emma Watson. Justin was ridiculed (egotistical and crazy) while Nelson was praised (independent and kind). Then we moved on to the two women.

“Est-ce que Lady Gaga est intelligente?” my professor asked.

The class was silent, which I took to be indifference towards her. Then someone spoke up: “I wouldn’t call her smart.”

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The class agreed. How is Lady Gaga smart? She sings catchy songs and dances around on stage. Street smart, maybe, but intelligent? The class decided we needed a different word, which led to my professor pulling up WordReference and searching the word malin.

(Disclaimer: WordReference is, undeniably, a great site for foreign language students. It offers multiple translations of words and phrases they can be used in).

According to one of the site’s definitions, malin can mean “smart, shrewd, clever.” As used in the first example: Il est malin, avec un rien il fait quelque chose. (He is smart, with nothing he does something). What a great definition! It could also be used to mean “resourceful” in this context.

Then we scroll to the second definition: “sly, cunning, crafty.” Maybe it’s just my jaded viewpoint, but that suddenly sounded a lot less positive. Then the site offers up a second example: Elle est maligne, elle trouve toujours une excuse. (She is crafty, she always finds an excuse). Another word that could be used is “sneaky.”

(Personal aside: the more devious definition is used in reference to a woman. If you want to hold a grudge, this could be viewed on the same level of thinking as “A man’s a boss, a woman’s bossy“).

Yes, the class agrees: Lady Gaga is crafty, not intelligent. Not like Emma Watson, who everyone views as intelligent and independent. She delivered a very-well said address to the UN in regards to the feminist agenda. She is our definition of an intelligent woman.

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Emma Watson is an admirable woman, and I watched and agreed with many of the speaking points in her address. I respect her. I also respect Lady Gaga, a woman who has overseen the creative control of a career whose influence stretches from pop culture to social issues (including feminism and LGBTQ rights). But one woman’s choices are being praised while the other’s are criticized, because nowadays there’s a certain manner a woman has to carry herself with in order to deserve respect.

Take, for example, Daphne and Velma. Within the confines of the Mystery Machine, Daphne is a romantic interest for Fred and often the damsel in distress. Velma reads books and runs around in a turtleneck and glasses. Through much of the series, we’re conditioned to expect intelligent thoughts from Velma and eye candy from Daphne.

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Yes, women are capable of vapid thoughts. They are capable of rambling and ranting and getting emotional, which I know because I am a woman and I do all these things. I am also a full-time student who works and tutors and writes and likes to go out with her friends to parties on the weekend. I can hold down a conversation about Sacai’s spring 2015 RTW line as comfortably as a discussion about class conflicts in modern Chinese literature. I’m a complex human. And sometimes I can be funny!

Women are also capable of making mistakes and owning up to them. When I don’t do well on a test or don’t get the job I interviewed for, I expect jokes to be made and sometimes make them myself. I can’t drive because I’m a woman. Of course I failed that midterm, I shouldn’t have left the kitchen. If I don’t always dress conservatively (“No one’s going to buy the cow…”) and dedicate all my time to studying and working, then I’m not the kind of woman that deserves respect. I must always be as opinionated as I am soft-spoken.

I didn’t consciously think about this thought process until my friend Hassan confronted me about it. While in my friends’ apartment last week, I made a sexist joke in regards to myself concerning an upcoming internship interview. Hassan blew up at me, arguing, “When I make sexist jokes, you storm down here and yell at me about why they’re wrong. Why do you get to make them? How is that fair?”

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I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. Sexist jokes prey on the belief that some women, those that are modest and studious, are better than those who spend their time chasing boys and applying lipstick. Women have their sizes, their outfits, and their likes/dislikes scrutinized every time they leave their homes. Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom now demands explanation and comments about wasted potential. God forbid a woman willingly chooses to undergo plastic surgery! It’s hypocritical for our society to begin demanding gender equality when respect isn’t being dispersed equally within a gender.

I don’t want my little sister Chloe, who refuses to be excluded when our dad and brother play sports, to feel like she has to justify wanting to wear a pretty dress to school. I don’t want my cousin Emma, who marched up to her sister’s teacher and demanded a report on her progress, to think she should feel guilty for getting hung up over a boy won’t text back. Girls should not be conditioned to constantly apologize for the presumed shortcomings of being a woman. Lady Gaga is an industry powerhouse who has always prioritized LGBTQ rights with her career. Emma Watson is brave enough to raise her voice in front of the United Nations. Toni Morrison worked her way through two college degrees to eventually becoming a Nobel Prize winning author.  Kim Kardashian is resourceful to take the privileges she’s been born with and turn them into a brand that, like it or not, you can instantly recognize. Shonda Rhimes has become a household name while working in a largely male-dominated industry. Malala Yousafzai stood up against the cruelty of the Taliban and went on to continue speaking out for the importance of education and women’s rights.

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If I was asked how to describe myself now, the first thing I would tell them is that I’m a woman. I’m a woman, and I’m damn proud of that. Growing up around my mother, aunts and grandmothers has taught me to be resourceful, independent, and—at times—scrappy. My body is built to go through hell and survive.

I am going to make a conscious effort to no longer objectify, criticize, or demonize myself or any other woman. I will stop searching for the supposed flaws that all women must hide and begin demanding the credit that I, as an individual woman, have earned.

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Just Think…

You could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.

-Taylor Swift

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I spend a large portion of my time inside my school’s philosophy building. Am I a philosophy major? No. But I like to think that in a much larger, broader sense, we are all philosophy majors. Therefore, I have no reservations about walking into the philosophy building between (English) classes, chugging my iced coffee like Nancy Botwin, and sitting on a couch between two grad students discussing some essay by some philosopher for some class. And yes, freshman student looking for the auditorium they have their “Intro to Philosophy” seminar in, I can show you the way. This is my building. I spent most of my summer wandering around the empty halls, looking for a nice couch to nap on.

I am telling this story to mindlessly ramble provide a clever intro to the main point of this blog post (in the English department, we call this a segue). I have been coming to this building to nap work every day for almost two months and never once stopped to appreciate how comfortable I feel in it. It’s given me shelter from the sweltering heat (close proximity to my other classes makes me feel like a rockstar) and when I walk down the stairs I feel like a lady of leisure in Downton Abbey (R.I.P. Sybil Crawley/Branson). And, honestly, there are so many other things in life that I take for granted. I’ve had a lot of time to start compiling the list, because about twelve hours ago my friend Zack forced me to confront it.

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it took me 15 minutes to find a decent photo to capture this friendship (feat. Brandon)

“Read my blog!” I told my friends when I went to their apartment last night. They had all ignored the group text I sent them about it, so I decided the next best strategy would be to confront them in person.

No one really acknowledged my presence in the room, as they were all busy taking the Buzzfeed quiz “Which Gossip Girl Character Are You?” (I got Dorota, which apparently makes me the key to EVERYTHING). No one, that is, except for Zack.

“No,” he declared. I was shocked, and hurt. How could he deny me the only request I asked of him that hour? “You haven’t mentioned me once in your blog.”

“But Zack,” I cried (not in a whiny way, more so in a dramatically suspenseful way that captured the attention of the room). “No one even reads my blog!”

“And now,” he said as he looked out through the window, peering into the blackened night, “no one ever will.”

I was thrown. The only people that consistently read my blog are my roommates (when I tell them to) and my parents (that one time my dad voted for Chelsea being the most stressed roommate). Why was Zack annoyed that I hadn’t mentioned him?

Then it hit me…it’s the intention. Zack is one of the few friends I see on a consistent basis throughout the week, despite our very busy and different work schedules. He gives me rides to class almost every day. He helped me make my website and pushed me to start a blog. We’ve been friends since freshman year, and I think he’s become such an ingrained part of my daily life that I forget to remember how valuable his friendship to me. Wouldn’t I feel hurt if I was overlooked by a close friend? I give so much thought to the people that I can’t stand, but forget to appreciate those that are there to listen to me rant about that kid I accidentally made eye contact with outside of class. That math just doesn’t add up.

So, today, I will make a point to appreciate the little things I take for granted. First thing’s first: I’ll make a list.

  1. My family. Shout-out to you all (Mom & Pop, Tucker & Tanner, Grandmother & Grandfather (both sets), Aunts and Uncles, and all four of my favorite little cousins).
  2. Iced coffee. Without it, my body would stop running.
  3. Naps. Naps. Naps.
  4. The Mindy Project. Mindy Kaling plays a smart doctor who also loves rom-coms and cute sequined dresses…a true feminist icon for the modern woman.01f77d80e6fce0903fc23ab76e284342
  5. Marissa and Carli, my two best friends from back home. Keeping in contact with high school friends is not easy when you all go to different schools in different cities, but we all stay in contact and see each other whenever we’re in town. Simply put, they’ve been the loves of my life for years.
  6. Half-off breakfast from work. I haven’t been grocery shopping since August.
  7. Amazon Prime. Free 2 day shipping means Lena Dunham’s new book will be arriving TODAY.
  8. All my friends from college. There’s a long-running list and it would be exhausting to name every single person, but they’re a huge part of my life and sometimes nice to me.
  9. I’m a student at an INCREDIBLE university. My job (besides my actual job) is to go to class and learn. I complain a lot, but I am so lucky to not have much to actually complain about.
  10. Ninghai is still alive (insert Emma’s “Woo hoo!”).