Into The Wild

November 30, 2009

We explore the Quarterlife obsession with Into the Wild and the story of Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp. Music by Scott Merrick and the Last Frontier Band as well as The Buffali. Major spoiler alerts inside. Go read the book or watch the movie first!

Poor Little Rich Kid: Life Among Have Nothing Snobs

November 30, 2009

From 1999 – 2003, I attended New College of Florida (NCF). A liberal arts college with a history of rigorous academics fueled by personal passions, throwing legendary parties that attracted triple the school’s entire enrollment, and angering conservative talking heads who have heard of it (not many),NCF is a unique little institution. Like many of its graduates, I dearly love my alma mater, New College of Florida. I’ve loved it ever since I was in second grade and my grandmother and mother took me to visit the campus – I remember ending our tour on the bay and sitting in the shade of large stained glass domes that were someone’s thesis project. My love only grew when I was eight years old and received a letter from the admissions board suggesting that perhaps I should wait until I completed elementary school to apply again. (They also refunded the application fee I submitted and complemented the markers, crayons, and stickers I had used to make my first attempt at applying extra fabulous.) On graduation day, there was no prouder graduate that me to be joining a larger family of novo collegian alumni.

However, though I always felt like I belonged at the place, I noted quickly that there were a large number of people who didn’t feel that I belonged. The first lesson I learned at New College wasn’t about American Literature or Ancient Cultures or Art History. No, the first lesson I learned at New College was about social dynamics. Mainly, it was my sudden emersion in a group of people I like to call “have nothing snobs” – or HNSs for short. These are not garden variety hippies and vagabonds. These are people who purposefully throw out all their possessions – save for maybe a brand-new Volkswagen Bug or Apple computer – and live as if they had nothing while sleeping nightly with the security blanket of family wealth and support. They replace their material wealth with passive judgment for those around them who live, in their estimation, menial lives. Though I was always on the lower end of the economic spectrum growing up, my compulsory schooling had exposed me to several run-of-the-mill snobs. You know, the type that had compact disc players when everyone else was still listening to cassettes and would roll their eyes and sigh loudly whenever someone wore knock-off brand tennis shoes in their presence – as if the sight of cheap factory stitching was literally straining them physically.

HNSs are different. They may have started out with a set of parents who set the silver spoon in their mouth, but they now disown the spoon, and everything that comes with it, for a life filled with dreadlocks, rope sandals, and a holier-than-thou attitude save for the religious overtones that usually accompany that sort of thing. Their lawyer and doctor parents fret over their sloppy appearance, their grandparents worry that they are becoming bisexuals, and their friends back home really miss them at the annual Christmas mixer. Meanwhile, you find them at a drum circle that’s, “totally going to change the whole way you see the world, man.”

So, yeah, they’re stoned, too.

They eat out of garbage cans, calling themselves freegans, while simultaneous biting the hands that fill those cans with caustic words about consumer waste and the death of true community. Obviously, eating in the school cafeteria – with food cards each student was required to purchase – was a large contributor to the downfall of decency and goodness. They sit and complain about how their parents, “don’t get it,” and what and idiot their mother was when she tried to make a vegan cake and dared to use refined, white sugar. Bitch!

HNSs don’t do a lot of things. They don’t shop, watch television, talk on the telephone, or go to the movies – social action doesn’t leave them time for such trivial things. They don’t recognize the stupidity that is organized religion and they scoff many common social practices as they aren’t part of “the machine.” Most importantly, though most don’t have jobs that pay in things other than hugs and warm fuzzies, those on the docket wouldn’t be caught dead working for anyplace that couldn’t be described as “quirky” – - or at least any place that would make them stifle their individuality by forcing them to cover up their Che Guevara tattoo. My Hertz Rental Car uniform now produced the same reaction that my off-brand sneakers had just a few years before. These snobs may swear off deodorant, but they obviously didn’t lose that yacht club classism.

I harbored some resentment toward the HNSs for a while. I hated them for bursting the bubble of my utopia with their spoiled attitudes and barbs of judgment. However, one Christmas, I had an epiphany. Sitting behind my desk at the rental car agency on Christmas Eve like some dejected Ebenezer Scrooge, there wasn’t a customer in sight. I decided to break protocol and call my mom on the company phone. I missed her so much and it was really jerking my chain that all the HNSs were probably at home right now complaining to their moms and dads about how the tofu in the cafeteria wasn’t certified fair trade. However, once I got on the phone with my mom, I couldn’t stop talking about them. The hippie who picked his toe jam with his feet on the desk in my American Literature class, the girl who slapped me on the back of the head for hurting the soul of a tree by driving a thumbtack into it, the couple who sang Lauren Hill songs in the nude on their balcony to show the ridiculousness of consumer culture . . . I couldn’t shut up about them. My mom listened as I rattled on and said, “You’re sure meeting some entertaining people.” That was the truth – staring me in the face. As chaffed as I was by them, they gave my college life flavor and a particular brand of absurd variety that really couldn’t be achieved in any other circumstance.

Additionally, for as annoying as HNSs were, they seemed to provide just the right anti-establishment backdrop for my dearly loved school to exist. They marched into self-righteousness with enough rigor and enthusiasm to allow the rest of us to become sometimes inspired. The luxury they had of spending entire semesters with loads of free time not spent doing laundry or punching a time card, allowed them to do some good works in the community themselves. The often secret promise from the parents to support – financially and emotionally – their junior Marxist should he or she run into some trouble, made the HNSs feel so comfortable taking risks that they were able to lead the marches, sing the chants, and really give it a go at sticking it to the man.

HNSs may have made some of my moments uncomfortable at points. Their misunderstandings of actual poverty often lead to pretty comical irony. I can’t imagine college without them.

So you’re moving here, right?

November 23, 2009

I didn’t realize until I got to California that one of the major tasks in moving across the country is harassing everyone you know to move too. I had a few friends out west and typically every couple of times we talked I would get the “so, when are you coming to visit” or “want me to start looking for apartments for you?” questions. I wasn’t in a position to move until I graduated my MBA program. But once in possession of my rockstar business degree, I knew I wasn’t going to thrive in tiny central Florida.

So I packed my bags and drove across the country. I had prepared myself for the time change and having to switch to a far better phone plan in order to maintain my friendships (which was really just an excuse to get a phat new phone). But I wasn’t prepared to start asking everyone I knew to come visit. Somehow or another I started hearing those sentences pour out of my mouth…”So, you wanna come for Christmas?” “I have a couch you can crash on.” and “Why don’t you schedule your layover through Oakland?”

I have wonderful friends here who keep me completely busy, but something about having your far away friends and family come visit really makes it home. There is an acknowledgement that this is where your new life is that gives you a final sense of belonging. So the next time your west coast friend calls for a chat and slips in the “wanna come live with me” line, just know that you’re a valued part of that person’s life. Then book a ticket to come visit.

Could I? Would I? Should We?

November 23, 2009

FWB – Friends with Benefits – You think it will not be awkward in the morning…but whew!

Roses are red

Violets are blue

With no questions about an “us”

You do me and I do you!

Relationships are complicated things. If not, we would have every friend we ever made, kept up our revenge lists, wouldn’t screen calls, alcohol would have no more use in society, Facebook would be an internet graveyard and the ultimate could come to pass…

That one could just be friends with the ability to boink like rabbits with no pressures about past, present and future consequences. Or as it is better known Friends with Benefits.

Questions abound regarding the infamous relationship concept. The obvious up side is the rush, thrill of openness, the so called apparent lack of strings attached. And to be perfectly clear, the so called benefit is sex. The benefits are NOT harmless flirting, sexting, dirty phone talk, teasing, casual skinny dipping, etc.

Here are the top three of those questions:

Could’ve? Would’ve? Should’ve?

Let us say you have a friend you really like maybe even horn dogging for? But, you are not into the whole relationship addition to your hectic quarterlife world. That’s cool; nothing wrong with that. But, could you approach this person with the idea of taking it all the way without taking the two of you all the way to something more emotional, or causing some irreversible change in the relationship? Would you and your friend be able to handle the lack of commitment, muster the sensitive detachment and be able to give and take without any other feelings but friendship?

Hara Estroff Marano, Editor-at-Large of Psychology Today, states, “The thing about friends with benefits is that, often, only one person gets all the benefits.”

With that in mind, final question: should you go through with benefiting…what will the next morning be like? What will your relationship turn into? Will there be more, deeper questions about you, him or her and if what you shared really matters?

FWB right or wrong? Up to you and your partner. Quarterlifers are in a time of their lives where defining their selves; what they want from others is paramount to future growth and happiness. Relationships are an integral part of life. How far and what you need from them is something you have to decide for yourself.

Remember! Could I? Would I? Should We?

Twenty-something Twi-hard

November 17, 2009

I’m about to divulge something terribly embarrassing. Not only have I read all the Twilight books, I’ve read them twice and enjoyed them thoroughly. It’s one thing to love Harry Potter. There is literary validity to JK Rowling’s work- she’s a good writer who knows how to tell a good story. Stephenie Meyer, on the other hand, weaves a story about an obsessive teenage girl and her creepy stalker immortal vampire boyfriend. It’s not good writing, and its not particularly a good story. But I read them, and come Thursday, November 20, 2009 at Midnight, I’ll be sitting next to many teenagers and twenty-somethings watching the second installment of the Twilight movies.

I’m not proud, but I’ve come to terms with being a Twi-hard. It all started because I needed something to read while I waited for Harry Potter 7 to come out. My true addiction- I needed something to quell the years of waiting to find out how the ultimate battle between good and evil would end. So a friend recommended Twilight. It sounded innocent. Vampires, teenagers, werewolves…what could be the harm? Four books later and I curse myself for ever starting.

When I was a teenager, I read everything Anne Rice ever wrote. Between 1984 and The Scarlet Letter I managed to become obsessed with the lives of Louis, Lestat, Claudia, Vittorio, Memnoch (the Devil), Armand…well you get the picture. For a teenage girl who is awkward, a little socially inept, and who may or may not have had her heart crushed by mortal boys, there is something enticing about a boy who is in to only you, and will be for centuries. I like to think that I’ve matured since then. I know a lot more about who I am and about myself in relationships. So now that I no longer lust for the beautiful sparkly boy who never ages and thirsts for my blood- why would a twenty-something woman like Twilight?

There are plenty of things about the books (and soon the movies) that I don’t like. I think that the dynamics between the relationships are based on huge imbalances of power. I don’t believe in the instant insanity love that these kinds of books profess and think that promoting that can be harmful. I don’t believe in giving money to the Mormons- which is what you end up doing when you purchase Meyer’s books. What the books DO do for me is remind me of how far I’ve come.

Bella, the main character of the series, is fairly average, despite having a vampire for a boyfriend and a werewolf for a best friend (Team Jacob people- you’ll never get your way and you know it). But as stupid and creepy as the sparkly boy standing over her bed can be, Bella’s thoughts are truly those of a 17 year old girl. Obsessive at times, and ridiculous at others I saw my teenage self in her.

Book 2, New Moon, is the best of the series in representing her pre-quarterlife pain. I’ve fought with the other Twi-hards about the validity of book two (no mocking allowed if you’ve ever had a conversation in Klingon, debated Spiderman v. Superman, or analyzed the psychological development of the Alien creature from movie 1 to 4). But, it was in book 2 that I really got hooked. Stephenie Meyer steps out of her fanfic storytelling to get straight to the gut pain of what it is to be a teenage girl. Granted, her pain is over a boy- like most teenage drama- but it is no less real. That pain, the crippling, earth shattering, paralyzing pain of loss hit me at time in my quarterlife when I was feeling many of the same emotions as Bella.

Being in the middle of my job search, I certainly feel some of that pain resurface at times. Part of the terror of a quarterlife crisis is feeling like you’re taking a step backwards. Feeling those out of control moments can bring back memories of fighting with your parents, the stress of calculus, or a significant other who broke your heart.

No matter how much pain your twenties brings- it is never the same as actually being in your teens. There are joys that come in your twenties that you can’t imagine in high school. There are pains that are so much more complex, but that also come from having greater, wider experiences.

I like Twilight because I can remember what it was like to be that girl while recognizing that I am not her. Going through a quarterlife crisis is certainly a struggle, but could never be as stupid and painful as being a teenage girl with a sparkly stalker boyfriend who can’t grow facial hair.

Friend-thesaurus

November 9, 2009

We’re talking about amigos, buddettes, bro’s, etc…and maybe for this article more of those in the relationship toxicity department. Here is an interesting, no one ever needs to know fact; the quarterlifers in their childhood Jurassic Park fetish first coined the term Friend-a-saurus. To them, she was the awkward, unattractive girl in a college coed friend group out for ladies’ night in which she precedes to rooster block every male in the club.

Friend-a-saurus is just a label, but does indeed describe a friend most of us have. The rest of the above night’s story might have gone like this…she had your best interests at heart, knew that dude was no good, you were on the rebound anyways and since you two have been girlfriends since ya got your periods together back in 7th grade…well she is your sister; always has your back.

What other ¼ life friends are out there? Are they indeed just labels? Or do such peg them exactly. Fortunately we have the Friend-thesaurus.

Phony Promise Breaking Bitch – PPBB. Self explanatory.

Houdini – Always disappearing. Somehow they are still your friend, but you cannot even remember the last time you hung out for something outside of a random lunch of chicken tenders at the campus student center. Note to self: Was she my Freshman Orientation roomie?

Born Again, Again and Again Christian (or insert any religion or fanaticism) – Makes a stance on everything religious. Somehow she was also able to reinvent the Delta house night where nothing ever happened.

LGBT…ABCXYZ – Whatever the vogue initials of gender identification, simply two kinds. One is just a normal guy or gal, like you and I & pretty darn cool. The other uses every opportunity as a platform to propagate their sexual choices.

Shrink – Analyzer. Advisor. Anal-retentive About…YOU. This can be a good thing. And a best friend should have aspects of someone you could spend couch time with.

Theater/Drama Queen – Everyone has one. And if not…it is you!

Soprano/Gangster – Humor them til they get their ass kicked.

Daredevil or Dare-Demoness. Either way they seem to always find a way to always put their physical, fiscal or emotional lives at risk…with you sometimes along for the ride.

Gossip Girl – Do I have to explain this one?

Copycat – Okay. We get it. You want to be like me or the gang. Enuff! If you have one of these, tolerate’m. It’s flattering and a times, can inflate your own sagging ego. But, if they touch your patented massage move, time to bring in mediation.

The Caretaker – Can act like your parent or babysitting keeper. And everyone has a need to share personal triumphs and tragedies.

Loner – No cliché campus killer wannabe. They just prefer alone time with you and only you. Not a groupie and not a member of the posse. (See: My best friend might be gay for me)

Envious – Don’t jump to conclusions, you might just be this friend. Think about it?

Pass-Agg – Passive Aggressive or Jekyll and Hyde.

Comedian – Always makes ya laugh. This can be good/bad. Sometimes life can get serious and we do not need stand-up, but just a good hug or someone to pound a few with. (And by “pound a few” I mean beer, not what you were thinking ya perv. And you know you were…look up Friends With Benefits.

Weird Named Girl – In diversity days, we all have one. You try to introduce them, roll your “Z” Mess up and from then on everyone at the party thinks she is a refugee from some Balkans religious war and wonders why she does not wear a one of them thar funny looking scarves.

Cell Phone Phil – Never actually see, but just might “get you” better than anyone else on the planet.

BFF – Please!

Facebook Friend – Really? Get out more often.

Feminazi – Penis equals Darth Vader’s light saber.

Really Nice Guy/Girl – Patient, tolerant, symphathic and friendly. Available to talk at any time, about anything and not capable of anger. Love them, but almost want to punch’m in the throat. Especially if it is that douche bag who plays the slow ballad songs on his acoustic during the party. Oh, yes! Pour out your soul Keith. Girls love you Keith. You are so cool Keith. Umm…sorry. Nothing but good vibes for ya bro!

Apathy Upperclassmen or the guy still in Marketing five years after graduation – They used to be your social leaders. Now it is just sad.

Horny Duo – Sometimes friends come in twos. This couple are always together, playing house, sleep-overs, giggles, tickles…just makes ya want to blow chunks!

Zealot – Always has an intellectual or moral orgasm for the flavor of the month cause. Probably had the hipster arty Obama poster on his dorm door or cubicle wall.

Pimp Masta’ – Thinks life is only for picking up “ho’s.” Good news. He will get what’c coming to him when he meets the life ruining Mrs. Pimp Masta.

Confused Ex-Goth – Doesn’t know what to do. They get off on being “out” of the popular scene, but discovered at college they are below average weird scale. Cannot give up black, but cannot give into the idea of Greek rushing. Out of college she works at a book or music store. Good luck with her ecstasy addiction.

And that is just a sampling…be on the look out for Friend-thesaurus II.

Day of the (Please Let It Be) Dead

November 4, 2009

I’m calling for an end to it. My first Halloween weekend in Oakland and I see the downfall of our generation walking the streets. Scores of sexy nurses, sexy super heroes, sexy pirates, and sexed up little red riding hoods on every corner. I want to call an end to this trend. Can we please kill the sexy store bought costumes?

I remember every halloween costume I’ve ever had. My very first one was a store-bought plastic clown suit and mask and my second one was a generic super hero girl in the same plastic mask vein. Every one after that, my mom made. I remember going to Jo-Ann Fabrics and looking through the pattern books to find something I wanted to be. I got to be She-Ra, Daisy Duck, a dancing bear in a tutu, Cleopatra, and a cowgirl. I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a house where that was part of my experience. But as adults, we need to take a stand against store bought slutty costumes.

It’s not so much the objectification aspect or the downgrading of women in the workforce by turning every occupation into “Sexy _____.” It’s just a shameful lack of creativity. Store bought costumes don’t take any effort. This year I was a piece of tuna sashimi. It wasn’t a terribly recognizable costume, but while standing in line to get my roller disco skates I would hear a whisper of “Oh! She’s sushi!” and smile. But I was proud that I made it and that it didn’t have “Sexy” in the title (granted, I could have been sexy sashimi).

I worry that we’ve become lazy. As a kid, I got to be things I really wanted to be. The competitive nature of halloween, to have the best costume, drove me to find something awesome that I could be. Slutty consumer is not an aspiration. But it could be a really creative homemade costume with the right fishnet stockings.

Job Searching Sucks….But It Doesn’t Have To!

November 2, 2009

The joy of unemployment is that you have an incredibly wide open schedule in which to accomplish goals. The terror of unemployment is that you have an incredibly wide open schedule in which to push your goals to the side, lay around in your pajamas, eat macaroni and cheese, and watch tv. Battling this issue isn’t a matter of willpower- its a matter of strategy.

When you were in school or working, you had a regular schedule, or at least a group of tasks that needed completed by certain points. Job searching is no different, just more abstract. So first things first. Take some time out and write a schedule- an incredibly detailed schedule. The hardest thing to do when you’re unemployed is to get out of bed and think to yourself “now what?”. Having a schedule gives you something to fall back on. If done well, you never have to worry about what’s next on your plate.

Here is a typical day (Friday, to be exact) from my ‘funemployment’ schedule:

7- wake up, check internet
7:30- eat breakfast
8- work out, shower
9- review job files
10- follow up with jobs
11- read job related book
12- lunch
1- search for new jobs, apply or add to file
4- recap week, plan next week
6- Friday!

I don’t adhere to it strictly (I did sleep in til 8:30 today) but it gives me a guideline on what to accomplish. Many of my days have empty blocks. That enables me to move things around or schedule interviews as they arise. Reevaluating your schedule occasionally is important. If you find you can’t do three hours of job searching, break it up with working out. Maybe waking up early doesn’t do it for you and you decide to work later. That’s fine! Keep checking in with yourself to see what you need in order to find a job and stay sane.

It’s also important to schedule life things and fun things. Now is the perfect time to get some of those things done that you couldn’t while you were working. Get your teeth cleaned, get an oil change, go to the thrift store that is only open on Thursdays from 1-3. Take advantage of your flexible schedule while you can. I also make sure to schedule time to watch my favorite show, update the website, or volunteer. By having those fun things in place, the work looks less daunting and the fun things become rewarding.

I didn’t schedule it, but in that 8-9 block of working out and showering is getting dressed. Just like the schedule, getting dressed is important. If you find yourself with a scheduled day where you’re just going to be working on the internet and getting your resume in order, you still need to put on real clothes. Laying around in your sweats is wonderful- but reserve it for a weekend. It keeps your mind alert to the fact that you’re actually accomplishing things. It also makes the transition back to working easier if you’ve maintained the morning rituals. I don’t wear a suit to work on the internet. Most days are jeans and a sweater, but I am far more prepared when I don’t just roll over in bed, grab the laptop, and start the day (I must confess, I often work in my sock monkey slippers).

For those days when you’re stuck at home, plan an outing. Once you’ve accomplished what you needed to do, get out. Go to the grocery store, the library, walk your dogs, walk yourself, get some ice cream, see a movie- just get out. Nothing starts the downward spiral of depression more than going to bed realizing that you never saw the sun and you haven’t breathed fresh air since last week. Looking for a job is a job, and you have to treat it as such. Everyone takes breaks from work, otherwise we’d all go mad. Make sure you’re taking those breaks and visiting civilization.

And speaking of civilization, go volunteer. This is so good for you while you’re unemployed for a myriad of reasons. First, volunteering gives you a sense of accomplishment. If you didn’t get a call all week and got nothing but rejections, knowing that your favorite non-profit was happy to see you and couldn’t have gotten that mailing out or cleaned their storage space or built that house without you lessens the blow. You can also volunteer for a company in your area of interest. See if that design firm wants an extra hand on Wednesdays or if that boutique could use some free web design. You never know when a volunteering gig could turn into a full-time gig, especially if you’re showcasing your skills. Volunteering also helps you meet people. You could gain new friends or even new employers through your temporary volunteering experience. Finally, if you’re truly unemployed, volunteering gives you a current reference and fills in that gap in your resume. While it won’t necessarily disguise that you’re unemployed, it will let future employers know that you weren’t just sitting on your butt eating Cheetos all day. Unless, of course, you swung a volunteer gig with Cheetos.

See that hour of “read a job related book”? That one is a saving grace because it keeps you fresh on your skills. If it takes you six or ten months to find a job, some of the things you were good at are going to take some time to get back. If you stay current with your industry you can hit the ground running when an employer finally says ‘yes’. It also breaks up reading straight from a computer for eight hours a day and gives you a break that is still productive. I make sure to get in a comfortable chair with some tea and make it an experience.

But don’t stay in that comfy chair too long. Choice of workspace can make a huge difference. If you’re able to work laying in your bed under the covers, then congrats. However, much like showering and changing clothes, sitting at a real table or desk to participate in your job search changes your mental approach. Some days you have to get out of the house and work somewhere else or go stir crazy. Try the library before the coffee shop. Scones and lattes are awesome, but are far better as a reward motivator if they aren’t sitting next to you while you work. 

If you fall off the funemployment bandwagon and spend a day in bed reading trash novels or obsessively watching Lost (all of which are instant watch on Netflix *cough*), don’t let it wear on you. One day lost to the unemployment gods isn’t the end of the world. That being said, if you start to schedule a three hour block of “America’s Next Top Model” marathons instead of resume or skill building, you may need to reevaluate your schedule.