Wide Awake and Dreaming

I said I wasn’t going to do it.

It’s almost midnight (not that late, compared to former college standards of a “late night”) but late enough for someone who has been up for the past 16 hours, working and is in the middle of tech week with tired cast and crew alike. I am tired. I should shut the computer off, turn out the light, and crawl into bed. And if I did that, I probably would be out rather quickly. Two minutes flat.

But. As a writer, one cannot just “sleep.”

Inspiration hits at the most inopportune times. In the car, along a scenic drive, without any hope for pulling over to jot ideas down in a non existent notebook. In the shower, where a pen could be dangerous and paper would just get soggy. And of course, right before bed time. Usually when one is already snuggled under the covers, feet, legs, arms in just the right spot-and then THE IDEA hits.

Fortunately, I caught the inspiration before that moment, and fought the urge to ignore it and instead…I wrote.

I’m not entirely sure even what I wanted to write, but I just knew I had to. Thoughts and theories and ideas were swirling around in my mind, and my brain was getting so overloaded it needed to simply release the words and phrases somehow. My thoughts were ranging everywhere from fear and panic, to passion and fiery love for life. From dreams and aspirations to “I should have eaten something before rehearsal. That grilled cheese from lunch is just not cutting it.”

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you would have noticed a sudden series of status updates regarding this show I am in (I apologize for the persistent spam, after next week I promise, I will be a ghost on your news feed, save for the random 80s’ movie references and sharing other people’s funny internet memes), a show that oddly is fitting in with my life better than any other show has in the past.

The show is an original piece, by my dear friend. She is an aspiring playwright, much like the main leading lady in the show. On the surface, the show appears to be about a lovable yet tiring young woman that fantasizes about a British actor and has imaginary conversations with him between bouts of writer’s block and drinking. But the show is so much more than that. The show is, at its core, about a young woman scared to face the cold, steely feel of reality and adulthood.

Something I’m really resonating with right now.

And not just because I am a writer. But because I am a young woman, with no idea where she is headed. I’ve been out of college for a year now, have applied to over a hundred jobs (I’m underestimating), have submitted resumes countless times, have been hopefully interviewed a small handful times, achieved second interview status once…just to go back to square one: in front of my mother’s laptop, staring at Craigslist and Big Shoes Network, wondering what job posting to click on next.

And it’s not just about where my career (or rather, my eternal quest for the much demanded “experience”) is headed. It’s everything.

It’s the friendships that ebb and flow with each passing season. It’s the ever adapting relationship between my parents and aging grandparents. It’s the constant creeping reminder of loans, bills, and other financial burdens piling up. It’s the wanderlust, it’s the thirst for adventure. It’s the window shopping at wedding gowns while at work wondering if I’ll ever be ready. It’s the endearing child with the infectious laugh that causes me to wonder if that is what is missing. It’s the knowledge of big immense dreams, forced to live in an itty bitty living space momentarily.

Don’t get me wrong-I am actually a very content person. Honestly, I don’t need the latest gadgets, the high end designer clothes, or even a two story house with a picket fence and the American dream.

One might read through this little post and scoff at my claim of being content, but I state that I am content because being content and settling are two different things in my mind.

I don’t want to settle. And settle doesn’t mean get married, have kids, buy the house, and live happily ever after. At least not in this case.

When I say settle, I mean, giving up.

Too often people just give up. “Life” gets in the way, and they give up their career dreams because they need to pay off their loans. Then they get married, and give up on their dream wedding because they are trying to save for that exotic vacation to Thailand on their third anniversary. But instead they wind up having kids, and that money goes to a house and other sensible things, like repairs and the mortgage and the kids’ college fund, promising each other you’ll go for your 60th birthdays instead. And before you know it, while your life might be happy and fulfilling and enriching, with love and family surrounding you at every corner…you gave up on your dreams.

Maybe I’m just young and naive and all my friends out there that are working jobs they don’t love, married with children in a house that is causing them headaches in maintenance costs are shaking their heads at me because I don’t get it. That’s very possible. Maybe I’m just a silly dreamer and in a  few years I’ll finally catch up to them and look back at this and go “You should have just gone to bed like your internal clock was telling you.”

But until then, I don’t want to give up. I want to give my dreams a chance. Even if they don’t come true. Even if I technically fail.

Because then, at the very least, I can continue through life knowing I tried.

Sometimes trying is half the battle.

dan cliff try

 

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Parents: Through the Eyes of the Single, The Childless, and Retail

It has been one of those weeks.

I have a million things buzzing around in my mind at the moment-career path, relationships, lines for a play, and the constant wonder about what day is it-but there is one thing that has been on my mind a lot lately…

CHILDREN.

And more specifically-their PARENTS.

To assist me, the ever talented Robert Downey Jr. will help me narrate with his diverse facial expressions:

robert downey jr_long gaze

Just…can’t…look…away….

rdj dreamy

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Children. And their parents.

A) Not Everyone Wants Kids

Every married couple ever has been asked that age old question-“When are you going to start having kids?” I have been guilty of asking it myself even! It’s a basic question, and most are simply curious. It’s the answers a couple gives that people feel they have the right to judge. Family, friends, fellow married with children couples and even single friends just smile when a couple says “We are waiting a few years,” or chuckles when a couple says “We actually aren’t planning on having kids ever.” Those couples are then bombarded with statements like “Oh, you won’t be able to wait that long!” or “You will change your mind!” That might be true. A couple on the five year plan may break down by year two, and the couple that claimed they would never reproduce welcomes a daughter into their lives five years later. But. Not. Everyone. Wants. Kids.

rdj pointing

Some couples want to focus on a career or travel or have five dogs in lieu of kids. Is that what I personally want? No. Is that what you personally want? Maybe not. But is it wrong to feel that way? No. As the Apostle Paul once said, not everyone should get married. Same goes for child-bearing: Not everyone should (or wants) to have kids.

B) Not Everyone Even Likes Kids

I know this may be hard to believe, as an individual who loves children, but not everyone likes kids. Maybe they didn’t have much experience with children because they didn’t have siblings growing up or never baby sat. Either way, like how not everyone likes dogs or how some people really dislike telemarketers, some people really just do not like kids. Some day, those same people may change their tune, but for the time being, if a friend invites you to her wedding and requests to not have children present: don’t be offended, and realize she is just trying to be respectful to her other guests. Will having five kids at a wedding make for a non enjoyable time? Probably not…unless those kids are bothering other guests in a way that goes above and beyond the understandable curiosity and wind up being disruptive and disrespectful to the guests. Which leads me to my second next point…

C) The Fine Line About Boundaries

I currently work in retail, and I can’t tell you the number of times where I have become frustrated by the families that come in. Most of the times, I am not frustrated with the kids, but with their parents. If I was a kid, and I was going along on a boring errand, I’d have  a hard time resisting the urge to explore and play to my heart’s contentment. I have no problem with kids playing hide and seek among the dresses, or making funny faces at themselves in the mirrors.

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I don’t mind the kids that ask me questions or even the kids who sing and dance on the stages near the rooms. When I get frustrated is when this behavior escalates to a level where it is bothering other customers or they are putting themselves in potential danger or downright not being respectful…and their parents COMPLETELY IGNORE WHAT THEIR KIDS ARE DOING.

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I remember one time I sitting at the front desk, greeting customers, when these three kids wandered up to the front by the heavy metal and glass doors. One girl, smaller than the other two, was trying to run out the door (trying to get away from the other two kids, who didn’t know her, who were picking on her and trying to pick her up and pushing her down…the first thing that bothered me, but I stayed in my chair). I just knew someone’s fingers would get pinched in that doorway, and was worried that little girl might get through both sets of doors and wander into the parking lot where a car might not see her and hit her. So I calmly went into maternal mode, and walked over to the doors and stood between the kids and where they were trying to go. I said, “Come on, I don’t want you to get hurt. Let’s go back over here.” It was at that point, the point I intervened, that the mother of the older two kids finally made an appearance and an interest in her kids. She had been on the cell phone, looking at dresses, COMPLETELY IGNORING HER KIDS. I could understand if she was discussing things with the bride regarding her daughter’s flower girl dress-but no-the bit I overheard she was talking to someone not even going to the wedding and about their weekend plans. The second I stepped in, she then walked over and got herself involved (and left shortly after, giving me attitude when I asked if she planned on trying anything on-giving me the impression she was either embarrassed or offended I told her kids to do something)

This is the kind of thing that I see on a regular basis, and it upsets me. I can understand if you can’t find a sitter, or want your kids their because their aunt is getting married and they are just as excited as you. More than okay! But! Don’t ignore your kids. If you want to look at pretty dresses and not have to chase your kids around the store, bring them toys or coloring books to keep them preoccupied when they lose interest or make it known you won’t tolerate misbehaving. If you discipline your child for being unreasonably naughty, I won’t think ill of you-I will respect you more than if you just let them run amok with no boundaries what so ever.

On that note, remember again that not everyone likes kids. And as much as I would love a kid walking up to me as I try on my wedding dress and tell me I look like a princess, not every bride wants a three year old’s opinion…especially when she wanders into her fitting room and tries on her shoes. Some will find it adorable and endearing-while others will get upset with their consultant, wondering why kids are running about at a bridal shop like it’s a playground. Boundaries people. Boundaries. Respect and boundaries.

D) Your Kids Aren’t As Cute as You Think They Are

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Facebook and social media sites are certainly changing the way proud parents show off their mini mes, what with Instagram, smart phones, and every single convenience of the digital age. You don’t even have to attach photos to an email anymore-just upload a picture of little Helga on her first trike to your news feed and Aunt Lydia in Spain or Grandma in Colorado can see it right away. No one has to wait for family reunions to see photos from the past year-they can see the progression of their nieces and nephews in real time. I often wonder what these toddlers will think when they are our age and have much of their life documented on the web:

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With all that said, the modern age has changed the way parents go about this…and possibly for the bad. Now, I admit that I enjoy watching a cute video of my friends’ kids as much as the next, and I get excited seeing photo updates like their first jump in a pile of leaves or video of their first, hearty laugh…

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Or they have mastered this at age one…

I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t enjoy it…to an extent. Like with anything, “everything in moderation,” and not all, but some of my friends seem to think six or seven photos a day is moderate. Granted, my cousin takes a lot of her daughter-but that doesn’t bother me as much because a) she takes actual good photographs of her daughter and b) her daughter is sensationally adorable. Not to be mean, but not everyone’s kids are extremely photogenic…or to put more eloquently, their kids aren’t caught in an extremely photogenic moment. I get it. You are excited, you want to show the world this little person you made with the assistance of their spouse, and family love being caught up on the latest. Just remember not everyone loves your kid like you do. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve changed my settings for a few friends so I don’t get their news feed updates anymore. I like staying up to date with my friends’ lives…but seeing every second of their children’s lives is exhausting, which brings me to my final point…

E) Don’t Forget You Aren’t “Just a Parent”

Being a parent is a wonderful calling to fulfill, and it takes more love, sweat, tears, and hard work than almost anything else. You sacrifice your sleep, your time, and your well being for this little person you helped bring into the world, and that is quite admirable, and something I highly respect. Something I’m not ready to do. Something I sometimes can’t imagine how people do it and do it as well as they do.

With that said…remember that being a parent is not your only role in life. It is a big part, and should be a big part, don’t get me wrong, but don’t forget or neglect other roles-being a loving spouse, your other family, and your close friends. I get it. Once a couple gets married, they would rather spend time at home together watching TV then meeting up with a group of their single friends who talk about all their relationship problems or their dating friends who don’t understand married life-I get it-you enjoy relaxing with your special someone. You like the solidarity and quiet and peacefulness of being with your soul mate instead of your crazy (and sometimes needy) friends.  And once kids enter into the picture, that occasional Friday night with your group of friends becomes even more rare due to your crazy schedule-and, as it should be-your kids and new family become number one. You should focus on that, especially in the early years of your kids lives-but don’t forget your loving spouse, who took on the role of staying in the work force while you took the role of manning the home front with the young-ins. You both are working hard for the common good of your family, and aren’t just a super parenting team…but lovers. Don’t forget your friends, the ones that even though you might not have much in common with anymore, still love you and want to be a part of your life. It doesn’t have to be much (a lot of us understand that you just don’t have time to spare because kids are great-but they are exhausting in multiple different ways-and we don’t want you to neglect them either, as seen in point C)  but even a random text about a funny memory you shared years ago annually is more than enough. Because one day your kids will be out of the house, and you’ll be sitting around one day, wondering what ever happened to your good friend so and so.

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I understand that that’s a part of life, and you can’t hold on to every single friendship you held dear in high school or college. Still, treasure the ones you hold dearest, even if you have your arms full of diaper bags and stuffed animals.

With all that said, I feel it appropriate to make it known that first and foremost, I love children. I do, and I hope to have one (maybe more) someday. I also do love a lot of my friends and family members’ children as well, and do enjoy getting to be a fly on the wall to their lives and the milestones they hit with each tooth and new vocabulary word. Finally, please keep in mind I am only twenty-three years old, not married, and not a parent.

rdj peace out

I read an article awhile ago about a parent responding to someone who wrote in wondering why her friend never had time for her anymore. I enjoyed the article, and it opened up my eyes to what some of my friends and family are dealing with on a daily basis. While this may have come off as harsh or mean at times, I was merely trying to give perspective on how I see it through my eyes. If anything, so that the next time you wonder why your friend hasn’t liked your photo of Baby Hank’s fifth loose tooth or why the sales lady at the department store seemed to rush you out of the store at check out, I hope you just remember this blog post, smile, and relish in the fact that we have no idea…but when you get home you put Little Vicky in a time out for scribbling all over the wall in the dressing rooms, call the babysitter up so you can treat your spouse to some one on one time Saturday, and text your good friend “Vicky scribbled all over the wall at the store again today-reminded me of the time in college you did the same thing-but with paint and you had permission. Miss you and hope things are going well.”

Sincerely,

The Shoe

rdj blowing kisses

Thresholds

There’s a moment.

A moment that follows as you bounce down the cracked sidewalk in your new black blazer and heels, hair tied back in a sensible pony tail, with a large leather bag for various portfolio pieces slung over your dominant arm-a moment that finds you in the gentle summer breeze, in the bright sunlight, about a hundred uneven steps away from an ever temperamental parking garage.

A moment that you have hoped for for quite some time, a moment that when it presents itself…you aren’t quite sure what to do.

The moment I am describing is the rush, the excitement, and the uncertainty that follows a very solid second interview for what could very well be your first full time, “big kid” job.

The “moment” might hit at different times for different people. For me, that moment happened roughly one year and one month after I had graduated. And it is a moment that brought different feelings and emotions than what I was expecting.

This full time position, shall I get it, would allow me to move out of my childhood home…for good. My bedroom would finally become the cozy upstairs craft room my mom has been planning for since I started college. I would get back into the routine of being responsible for everything again: dishes, garbage, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing, sweeping, and bills. My boxes filled with college apartment memorabilia would see the light of day again in a new apartment, one not shared with my dad, my mom, or my baby brother.

This full time position, shall I get it, would bestow upon me increased responsibility and work load.  Days of flexible scheduling as a part time employee in retail will become a thing of the past, and the occasional late night hanging out with friends, watching movies and talking into the wee hours, will lessen more than they already have since graduation.

This full time position, shall I get it,will add and create new challenges for our relationship. Not only will we have 120 miles between us, but coordinating our schedules so we can see each other will provide us with a new test. I can’t help but factor how this new job would affect us-you have become such an integrated part of my life, that plans regarding the future include you in them. Not with a specific label, but just a mutual part of something I shall simply call “us”.

What if it’s not a good fit like I think it is? What if I become some crazed career woman? What if I fail?

Despite all these thoughts, I feel an odd sense of calm and peace. Like a popular pop song which said, “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying hey-o-gotta let go.”

And earlier today, I did just that. I threw my hands up (possibly literally, I cannot recall) looked the bright blue sky right in the eye (figuratively) and simply said, ” I don’t know what You have planned. If this is meant to be, help me so it can be. If it is not meant to be, help me see the beauty of why it wasn’t. Either way, whatever You decide-just please help me do my best. Either way-its Your call, Big Guy.”

(or something like that)

So, for the time being, I await at a threshold. Not sure if I will cross it and enter a new step of my life, or if it will tease me for a few months longer.  Either way, though, I am actually, honestly, extremely okay with the outcome. Whatever it may be.

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Gatsby and Me

“Classic’ – a book which people praise and don’t read.”  – Mark Twain

About a month ago, Baz Luhrman (the master mind behind the love-it-or-leave-it movie musical Moulin Rouge!) took a risk and embarked on an artistic journey as a director and brought F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel to the big screen. Naturally, Lurhman was greeted with praise and criticism alike, with individuals surprised by the accuracy the film held in reflection of the book to other fans disgusted with certain choices regarding the score and visionary aspects. Either way, the film made headlines and has done quite alright despite the mixed reviews.

The last time I really spent any time with Fitzgerald was my junior year, in a high school English class. I like to think we read the novel and then watched the film version with Robert Redford, but my memory is fuzzy and all I remember was the green light, a pair of ever watching eyes, and a frantic red head cutting her hands on a broken window pane. However, I also remember liking Fitzgerald more than most of the authors we had visited that year, and sitting out on the deck at home those early summer months reading This Side of Paradise, so naturally I was rather excited to see the new film.

I would love to sit and discuss the movie’s winning moments and debatable flaws, but I write for another reason.

I write on behalf of the individual that apparently didn’t realize The Great Gatsby was first, indeed, a book.

kurt what gif

 

Seriously.

Taylor Swift what gif

Make that individuals, actually.

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Now, some may have a very good reason for not knowing that The Great Gatsby is indeed a book. Perhaps they are from developing country, or they are three years old, or they have literally been living under a rock for the past 80 years or so. Irregardless, this book is on every high school reading list for the summer or part of the core curriculum, so even for teenagers who are too busy to actually read the texts on the list should at least recognize that the titles are indeed pieces of literature.

Anyway, this got me thinking about classic works of literature, books in general, and writing, and how they are all connected. And how, as an aspiring writer (with a slight lack of discipline and frequent cases of writer’s block), I really should read more. Not just the classics, but books about subjects that interest me. I should just read for my overall human betterment, especially as a writer.

Not reading for a writer is like jumping into a race car with no knowledge of manual transmission. Not reading for a writer is like attempting to salsa before one has mastered the simple crawl. Reading is exercise for writers, strengthening us into better writers word by word. Reading is research and learning, not just about the world around one’s self but about one’s self.

So, my goal for this summer (among the many other goals and activities I have committed to) is to read more, so in essence, I can write more…and better.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” –Stephen King

A Love Letter to New Graduates

Tulips and daffodils are blooming, trees are (finally) budding, the sweet smell of fresh cut grass fills the air-it can only mean one thing, right?

Finals and graduation(s) are around the corner!

For my lovely friends in high school, college, or graduate school, who are either studying feverishly for finals and/or graduating this month and next, I am writing this for you. Since you are rather busy, I’ll sum up my letter after this sentence in respect for your tight schedules, and then you can always read the long, run-on-sentence, there’s-a-message-after-all-this-rambling-I-swear blog post later.

a) Congratulations! You have survived another year! Double congratulations if you are receiving your degree (or a degree) within the next few weeks.

b) You’ll be okay, and you will survive.

You may now resume studying frantically.

For those of you with time on your hands (or who prefer the procrastination way of studying) please read on:

Speaking purely as a graduate about to celebrate her one year post college anniversary in two weeks, take what I say with a grain of salt. I don’t have all the answers, nor do I claim to. I simply just want you to know some things I’ve learned, some of which you will learn in different ways or through your own experiences.

That being said, my letter commences (pun definitely intended):

Dear Soon-to-be Graduates of 2013,

Congratulations! You have successfully survived numerous finals, sleepless nights, stressful situations, exasperating projects, professors that lack sympathy, writer’s block, lack of inspiration, crazy tech weeks, late lab nights, long lonely hours in the library, questionable cafeteria meals, sock outs and other dangerous on campus events, an internship or two (or three), credit overloads, free time under loads,  washer/dryer hogs in your residence complex, millions of campus email spam, defending a thesis, the campus ghosts and haunted buildings-among many other classes and “extracurriculars”. ( I wasn’t kidding about the run on sentences.) In a few short weeks, you will don a rather flattering black gown with matching hat, walk onto a stage in front of hundreds of people, shake hands with the President, receive your degree (not the actual thing-they keep that elsewhere as collateral lest you do something stupid) and then once the ceremony ends, be greeted by plenty of professors, family, and friends with hugs and kisses and high fives and shots shouts of “WE DID IT!”

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You may go on to have a party in your honor, and post party maybe party hop to other parties, feeling confident, satisfied, and nothing but excited for what the future holds. I know that one year ago, that was me. The weeks leading up to my graduation, I was excited. Antsy. Eagerly anticipating (you are going to laugh) JOB SEARCHING. And when I put on my classic Chucks, walked out of that gym, fake degree in hand, I couldn’t believe that this moment had finally come. The moment you hope for during your high school years, that you pray for during the four years (or two) you spent here, the moment where you can honestly say (unless you are going to grad school) NO MORE PAPERS. NO MORE BOOKS. NO MORE TEACHERS DIRTY LOOKS. You dream about reading books you want to. You dream about having time to do what you want. You dream and smile and can’t believe you are at this moment.

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Now I’m going to shatter that image.

noooo

Some of you will get hired after graduation. Which is awesome and I’m very happy for you if that is your case. Some of you may not have a full time gig after graduation, but you may have other plans. Graduate school, studying/traveling abroad, or an awesome summer internship lined up. To which I say, congratulations again!

However, some of you won’t have any of that. In fact, some of you will wind up working more hours at your current part time job, move back in with your parents (yes, your childhood bedroom will seem smaller-it’s because you have boxes of apartment stuffs that you have accumulated while away at school), and will be on your computer, everyday, looking for new job posts. Perfected resume on flash drive  you start throwing it around like dollar bills at a….lemonade stand (we’ll go with that). You check your email obsessively, your phone constantly, and think that any day, that one email or that one phone call will pop up.

It might not.

You may give it some time. You may think, while standing around at your current part time job, that it’s okay, I’ll be out of here by August, no sweat.

But August may come and go, and before you know it, you are busy with the holiday rushes, working almost full time hours for almost minimum wage and no benefits, and that’s when you realize. This. is. my. life.

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I know that I didn’t have realistic expectations after I graduated. I was adorably naive. I thought, “I’ve paid my dues! I have education coming out of my ears! I have a fresh degree in my hand! Someone will want me!” But then you realize, experience trumps education, so unless you have been studying for your particular field since birth…you will be chosen over for someone with more experience, even if you are the one with the bright ideas and enthusiasm that could actually make things better. Another alternative might be that you do have the experience and qualifications, but you lose out because there are just so many people applying for jobs, some well below their pay grade, that people are choosing them over us, even though they are too qualified. And it trickles down, right down to entry level food service and retail positions. College graduates are taking jobs away from high school students, who would like to work those jobs so they can save money for college. Think about that for a second. Some McDonald’s won’t look at applications unless the individual has a college degree. For McDonald’s. No hating on the Big Mac empire, but unless you are a manager, a college degree is not needed for a job there. Any teenager with common sense and work ethic could do that job, but instead, the college graduate gets chosen. So, we aren’t even able to play the victim card either.

At this point you are thinking, “Gee, thanks Shoe, now I feel really depressed and worthless. Great motivational speech-not!” And before we get to the silver lining and moral of this long winded letter, yes, you may feel depressed. And worthless. It’s a growing problem with our age group, 18-26, and the psychological sides of what we are going through isn’t always discussed. I just want you to know, that the feelings you may have over the next year, are normal to feel. You aren’t weird or crazy. There will be tears, there may be panic attacks, there may be insomnia, bouts of depression and anxiety, among other things. I say this not to scare you-but to help you. If you feel like this at any point-please, talk to someone. Talk to me. We will go out and grab a bite to eat or some coffee, and I’ll let you talk. If you want a more expert opinion, talk to a therapist. Seriously. There is nothing wrong with you if you feel like talking to an individual of a third party would help. It might, and it helped me. You might even learn some things about yourself in the process. Don’t keep it bottled up. I have chosen to write, and if writing is therapeutic, by all means do it. Exercise. A walk can be very refreshing and rejuvenating. Download songs and create a playlist of upbeat and motivational tunes (my go to songs for that would be “Gold on the Ceiling” by the Black Keys, “Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Disney’s Mulan, Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine, and of course “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey) Put on those songs when filling out applications and resumes, and it feels like you have your own little productive montage going.

Things won’t be rosy or easy. You will have bills to pay, and I’m not talking about loan repayment. Your car you’ve had since high school might take a nose dive, and you’ll have repairs to contend with. Your savings fund may seem rather empty, and you will feel like you will never get out of debt. Financial things aside, you won’t have all of your college friends around you, and that is hard. Having a support system helps immensely, but you may not have the one had for four years. Instead, your support system may develop to include your parents, siblings, co-workers, and that random Facebook friend who keeps you going with their cute pictures of cats.

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With all of that said, THERE IS A POSITIVE.

There is.

Dates for One:

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You don’t have to have life, from A to Z figured out right now. Use this time to find out who you are. Do you actually like working with people, or is that just a lie on your resume when you really think about it? Do you want to be in charge of future projects or would you rather be a helper who bends over backwards? Do you want to wear a suit or jeans to work? What do you love doing? What do you hate doing? What do you have mild feelings for that you are okay doing for say 35 plus hours a week? Where do you want to be right now living wise? Where do you want to go? Where do you want to end up? These are all things that will become clearer to you over the next year or so. Trust me on that.

My Big Fat Annoying Yet Awesome Family:

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Aside from personal revelations, living at home is not bad. Sure, you will butt heads with your parents. They have raised you from before you were born, and you have been away for awhile doing what you pleased when it pleased you. Butting heads is bound to happen. Keep calm, remain patient, and remember this is an adjustment for them too. Communicate. Express. Try to find ways to show your appreciation that they are letting you stay rent free (or be consistent and on time with your rent payments if they are charging you). In addition to parents, you may have younger siblings to contend with. You might be surprised to learn that that little brother you left four years ago is now in high school, dating girls, fixing cars, and doesn’t need to be babied. You might realize that actually the two of you can be actual friends and bond and grow closer, which is pretty cool. My younger brother and I have definitely had some awesome moments over the past year, some of which wouldn’t have happened had I not moved back after I graduated. I’m very grateful for that.

Your Not So Totally Awesome Part Time Job:

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Minimum wage, pressures to sell and make money for a corporation or business when it doesn’t seem like they want to share their goods with the people making the money in the first place, crazy hours, very few areas to advance or exercise creativity-there’s a good chance you may feel stuck. You may feel like you will never make enough for rent, or move on with your life. I’m here to say that you will, when the time is right. In the meantime, suck it up Buttercup (or if you must, vent to a dear friend and then suck it up 😉 and focus on the good things this job is giving you. Even if it is minimum wage, you are still able to make your loan payments each month, pay for gas, eat food, and even have a little inexpensive fun with friends. Even though you are working in food service or retail, it is making you a better person in ways. I know that when I go get food or clothes shopping now, I don’t get upset when they don’t have something I want in stock or leave my clothes in a heap on the floor (not that I ever did, and seriously, WHO DOES THAT?), but I have a new found respect for others in my current line of work. I remember my pleases and thank yous religiously, and if I don’t like a store policy, remember to not get upset with the employee-they didn’t make the rules, so don’t tear them apart. In addition to all of that, I am becoming a more assertive and firm person. There are some people out there who just want to take advantage of you, and the longer I work retail, the more I realize one needs to stand up for themselves. Be it customer, co-worker, or manager. Speaking of co-workers, realize the benefit that they are the few people who actually UNDERSTAND what you are going through work-wise. Your other friends or boyfriend may be willing to listen to your vent fest, but only co-workers will truly understand. It is an awesome feeling to explode in the break room, only to have your co-worker go “I FEEL THE SAME WAY.” So take advantage of this and go out for drinks and wings with your co-worker friends and bond. Finally, you never know how this part time job might be prepping you for something down the road. So, as hard as it is sometimes, work hard and try your best.

(side note: sorry for the intense use of ALL CAPS through this. Just passionate. That is all)

Chase Those Dreams:

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Just because you can’t land the dream job, doesn’t mean you have to put off other dreams. You want to travel? Save up and do it! While I don’t have enough to pay rent on a monthly basis, I did make enough commission one pay check to buy plane tickets, and went to DC, which I had never done before and it was amazing! I loved the history, the city, the weather we had, the cherry blossoms, the Metro-all of it. I was so grateful to have the chance to experience it all. One benefit of part time work is you can ask off-a lot (at least, more so than when you have a full time job). So take advantage of that! In addition to traveling, I’m pursuing other dreams. For instance, this blog. I love writing, and I’m pushing myself to write on a more consistent basis, and as mentioned before, it has been good for me. Other things I’ve been able to do while applying to jobs have included slowly yet surely updating my wardrobe, reading new books, taking up side jobs like at the newspaper and my new internship, etc. So, chase those dreams, whatever they are. You never know where that could lead you! Be spontaneous, make some random choices every once and awhile, and enjoy the flexibility this time of your life is giving you.

Remember Who Is In Control:

Some you may not believe there is a God, or we may have debate over who He is exactly. I’m not trying to prove His existence or force my beliefs on you, this is just what I believe. I believe there is a God, just because I look around at the world and it amazes me, and I just have a hard time comprehending that it just happened. Normally when you throw crap together it doesn’t create order (evidence: weddings), but I’m not here to debate that. Actually, if I am honest with myself, this past year has been hard believing anyone is in control of my life. That’s a struggle of mine. And it may be a struggle for some of you. Regardless, I believe that there is Someone out there that created all of this, and is watching out for us (not Big Brother). Someone that even when everything seems to be falling apart around us, gives us at least a beautiful sunrise, an unexpected gesture of kindness from a stranger, a surprise visit from an old friend-something good happens. Maybe not when we want it. Maybe not in a way we like it. But it happens. Your life over the next year may feel like it is falling apart at times, and that there is no control to it. Breathe. Let go. You aren’t supposed to have the control. Give up life’s remote and relax.

Finally…

I love you. A lot of people love you. Even if they don’t say it often or to your face, they do. Someday, it will all work out. One day we will look back at this letter and laugh at how I thought I was so wise. One day we will be exhausted from 40 + hour weeks, collapse in our La-Z-boy in our beautiful home, where we are surrounded by our wonderful spouse and amazing kids. One day we will accomplish some great things here on Earth, and that legacy has already started, whether it seems like it has or not. One day, we will see a graduate, shake their hand…but instead of expecting them to have their life figured out, we will simply tell them that the adventure is just beginning.

On that note, don’t view this as the end of my letter to you, but simply the beginning of where I stop talking and your experiences start happening. They may mimic mine, or be completely different. Either way, they are happening, and I cannot wait to see what life has in store for all of you.

Congratulations again,

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Last week if you recall, yours truly turned another year older, and was feeling, to put succinctly, lost. Unsure, confused, on the side of a dirt and gravel road, hopelessly clawing around the glove compartment for a map, any map that could show her direction.

Fast forward to a week later, and yours truly is smiling at random intervals during the day, laughter is coming easily to her, and a sense of optimism and inspiration has filled the space  recently vacated by the tenant that was housed their last week.

Perhaps the two days off in a row has helped benefit my overall mental health, or maybe the beautiful sunshine and emerald green grass and playful breezes are to blame. Maybe it was the trip to my doctor for a check up, who is always patient (pun!) and answers my every inquiry, like she has since I was seven. Maybe it was seeing Zach over the weekend, or maybe it was my rare choice to go without socks for a day. Who knows.

What I do know though, is I am trying. Which, a very old and wise person once said (okay, it was a puppet being voiced by Frank Oz, but that aside, Yoda did have some very profound moments…before they CGI’d the crap out of him), “Do or do not, there is no try.” But in this case, I’m trying to do, which in my mind is better than not trying to try to do at all.

I’m trying to enjoy the little moments life surprises me with. I’m trying to be content with how my life is now. My doctor, of all people, reminded me today that I’m where I am right now for a reason, and one day I will look back and maybe see why I was where I am now. But until then, I need to learn to be happy and love the now. A dream job may bring rejoicing to my bank accounts, but it won’t make me happy. Getting married might fill my soul with love and bring happy tears to my eyes, but it won’t make me happy. Holding my daughter’s hands as she takes her first steps might fill me with a sense of pride and protection I’ve never felt before, but it won’t make me happy. Painting the walls of an eventual living room in our first house might make me feel like a responsible adult and giddy with the sense of ownership, but it won’t make me happy.

If I don’t start working on being happy now, with who I am now and who I am with now and where I am now and what I’m doing now, than trying to find that happiness, chasing it through each stage in life will mean nothing and result only in one thing: lack of contentment, and disappointment.

Happiness starts within.

Life might not be my ideal right now. In fact, life at present may still give me days where I just want to hide under the covers from the world, and most of all, myself. But instead of focusing so much on what is wrong, I need to start focusing on what is so right and the countless blessings I have. Pursue my dreams and find out what they are, even if the world says I’m silly and childish for doing so. Embrace Zach often, and be beyond grateful for having someone like him in my life. Enjoy the hand holding and conversations where we talk over the other in excitement  and the moments where we butt heads because it is only a result of two opinionated individuals who feel extreme passion for the subject at hand and the other’s well being. Find comfort in co workers who have become friends, and the realization that working in retail (especially at a big box bridal shop) has helped me be a more firm version of myself, one who is assertive when the occasion calls for it and exercises compassion when my heart can’t help it. Being grateful for a place to put my words down in sentences (despite my lack of grammatical ways at times) and being grateful for the wonderful friends and loving family that do care about me. The friends the love me when I’m zany, and love me when I hurt. The family that defends me and may not use the word love often, but shows it immensely. Feeling blessed that while my body is not in optimal condition, I am alive and healthy, and my mind is this fascinating place that I can’t help but wander around in for hours. Remembering Someone bigger than me is in charge, and remember to thank Him often. Remember to ask Him and talk to Him when I need to, and want to, because sometimes He is the only one who can fix the mess.

To waking up a loved one, so they can see the moon rising.

To cookie dough ice cream.

To blasting the Backstreet Boys while commuting to work.

To random Qdoba dates with dear college friends.

To being able to smell Zach on my clothes after visiting him.

To finding shoes that are comfortable.

To sitting in Barnes and Noble, paging through children’s picture books and history books and touching best sellers with edgy designs for hours on end.

To grabbing breakfast with my dad.

To arguing with my mom over the benefits of a clearance top in the fitting room.

To randomly visiting my grandparents.

To looking back at old photographs, and seeing yourself in new light.

To making a child laugh in ways grown ups cannot.

To sleeping with the windows open, and hearing a distant train.

To waterfalls and cherry blossoms, seen by my eyes and through a lens.

To broken in sneakers, polka dot tops, and a cardigan in every color.

To pancakes with grilled bananas and melted ice cream instead of butter.

To letters with wax seals.

To gifts given from the heart.

To having to include toes when counting how many people love you.

These are reasons to not worry. These are reasons to be happy. To be happy, and to be happy now.

 

23 Going on 30

Tomorrow, (or pending on when you read this) today, marks the 23rd birthday of yours truly.

Honestly, I’m most excited about having taken the day off.

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And the fact that I am having worm and dirt cups, a delicacy of my youth, in lieu of cake and ice cream.

This time last year is drastically different from what lies ahead for me tomorrow. Last year, when I turned 22, I was a senior in college, feeling the burn of final final projects and papers and daydreaming in classes about how this time next year, the window I’d be staring out of would probably be in an office somewhere and not a classroom. I was gearing up to go on an amazing trip abroad with a former roommate to the exotic and mystical lands of Australia and New Zealand, and when we weren’t excitedly discussing our itinerary, I was discussing important and top secret maid of honor duties with one of my dearest friends for my current roommate’s wedding that following summer. I spent my actual birthday with my boyfriend at that time of just over two years, playing a round of mini golf and catching a movie at our favorite budget theater, and despite the craziness, the stress, and the overwhelming sensations-I was downright excited about life.

Fast forward one year exactly.

I have a window to gaze out alright-my childhood bedroom window. The papers and projects and classes have ended, and the only things that are ever due now are articles for the newspaper and my student loan payments. I’m not planning a trip abroad anytime soon, instead, my boyfriend of now just over three years and I kept it domestic and spent a week in DC, taking in the perfectly peaked cherry blossoms, marveling at monuments, and taking in so much history we had it coming out of almost every orifice possible. Only one wedding this fall and I just have to be a good bridesmaid and show up and do what the bride says and have fun, no top secret missions need to be carried out. I’m spending my actual birthday with my immediate family, which means pizza and a movie, and I already know what I’m getting-The Great Mouse Detective on DVD. Finally.

Birthdays just aren’t as climactic like they once were, are they?

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Back when your parents threw you parties for all of your friends, balloons and banners and streamers decorated about, a big huge cake with candles you got to blow out post wish making, a table full of brightly wrapped presents, and all the attention was given to you for one special day.

Over the years, the table of presents lessen, the cakes become smaller while the amount of candles ironically increase, and bit by bit, less people wish you a happy birthday let alone remember. Cards are replaced with social media greetings,  and as an adult, you are fortunate to spend a few hours of your birthday as the sole attention of a few people, if you are lucky (or have devious friends who caught you by surprise and kidnapped you).

The really sad thing though is, a lot of us are okay with this, purely because eventually…it no longer is exciting to realize you are getting another year older.

Maybe I am being unusually melodramatic due to the third gray hair I found this past week, or perhaps it is completely out of my hands due to nature and the way she is having with my hormones at the moment (see: PMS), but I just feel like I’m aging quickly and beyond my control. I almost feel like Mel Gibson in the movie Forever Young (and if this reference is lost on you, here is a link to help you better understand).

I was thinking the other day, about how things were different. In grade school, in high school, in college. Debating and wondering if I knew what I know now, if I would spend my time during those years differently. Perhaps I am merely remembering those times with rose colored glasses and graduation goggles, but there was definitely a sense of care-free freedom that has gotten lost somewhere over the past year or so.

I can only hope it is only hiding.

I don’t feel as if tomorrow I will be turning 23. I feel as if I have surpassed that age already, and honestly feel as if I am closer to 30. Exaggerating? Maybe. But when your friends and colleagues around you are all starting to get their lives figured out career wise, getting married, and starting to celebrate birthdays with their own children. well, those little gray hairs almost seem to be appropriate.

Normally, I am the optimistic friend, who always tries to show my wonderful and amazing friends the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining of the clouds, the open windows to their closed doors, every cliche in the book (including that one). But that part of me is running on fumes at the moment, and it’s sadly intriguing and scary all at the same time.

I have been able to find the upsides in my life at the moment: because I’m living at home, I have grown closer to my family, especially my baby brother, which has been cool and very good. I have been able to pay off my loans so far, and I have a network of people who love me for some bizarre reason or another. I am employed, even though it is far from my ideal job, and…

That just doesn’t change the fact that behind the Shoe you all know and love, is an Amanda who is freaking out because she just isn’t sure about anything anymore. An Amanda who is worried about that she will never find out what she is truly passionate about. An Amanda who is heavily concerned that when it comes to her career she will wind up settling. An Amanda who honestly isn’t sure where one of the most important relationships in her life is headed. An Amanda who could spend some time listening to her own advice but just can’t at the moment, and worst of all. An Amanda who feels like she has let down a small young girl with big dreams and a huge heart, who wasn’t scared of anything…until she grew up.

So, there you have it.

At the point of writing this, I turn twenty three years old in just over an hour.

And I am praying a change of heart and a new attitude and outlook on life comes with that additional birthday candle.

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