Peeps + Microwave = Awesome

March 31, 2010

Microwaving Peeps is the ultimate Easter experience. Any holiday that has marshmallow animals covered in sugar and stuck together in rows is for me. There are so many ways to put a Peep in the microwave and watch it explode. You can do one at a time, two at a time, a whole row, a row in the box (which explodes out of its container and when you’re done you have a carton of molten Peep). You can mix colors, you can mix animals, you can have wars between chicks and bunnies, and if you have enough foresight, you can save Peeps from Christmas and have battles between Easter and Christmas.

There is no greater joy than sticking those little buggers in the microwave, pressing “beverage” (there ought to be a “fun” button), and watching the candy eyes melt away while the little chick quadruples in size. It makes me think of Mr. Wizard’s experiment where he put a marshmallow in a vacuum and sucked out the air. There is something I love about forcing a thing to be what it’s not. That’s the essence of creativity- building something out of a mass of nothing, bending the elements to your will in order to create something new.

I don’t have many traditions in my life, but the few that I do have are very dear to me. Throughout a Quarterlife Crisis, it is important to keep these traditions alive.

Take two Quil and call me in the morning

March 30, 2010

Like many quarterlifers, and a disputed number of Americans, I went for many years without having health insurance. A few times a week I would think to myself “Boy, I hope I don’t break a leg/get cancer/lose an eye because I’ll be financially ruined.” It was only for a second, those few times a week, but it was constantly present.

Why didn’t I just go out and get health insurance? We’ll it wasn’t really that easy. I was on my parent’s plan through my first graduate program. As long as I was enrolled, they were willing to cover me even though I was past their “dependent” insurance age. Every semester I sauntered down to the registrars office to get a letter claiming I was enrolled and in good standing.

When I made the quarterlife decision to change paths, I lost that health care coverage under my parent’s plan. So I applied as an individual and was promptly rejected because of my height to weight ratio. Nothing makes you feel more like a loser than some form letter telling you you’re too fat for insurance. So I tried again, and with various other companies. No luck. So I went about my life praying I didn’t get sick or hurt.

And like so many others without health insurance, I got really good at the drugstore health plan. DayQuil and NyQuil for those times when I had a cold or flu, multi-vitamins to make sure I was staving off any viruses that like the weak, off-brand Zyrtec for allergy season, Mucinex for the after effects of allergy season, Delsym for the cough, and Ibuprofen for the headaches caused by cold/flu/allergy season. When I did get sick, I’d factor in a large bottle of orange juice and as much sleep as my schedule would allow.

This happened during a time when I was employed in a full time position. I’ve never had insurance through work. I’ve either worked at small companies or as a part time/seasonal college peon. I don’t necessarily think that a company should be forced to provide you health care, but there ought to be an affordable and effective alternative for those of use left out in the no-benefits rain. Oh wait, I think I remember hearing something about that in the news.

Currently, I’m considered a “casual” employee at my current retail position which continues my history of no benefits. So not much has changed really. I did find a provider to give me emergency coverage so that if I were to break a leg/get cancer/lose an eye I’d at least have a fighting chance at economic survival. Although, knowing the insurance industry, my coverage is probably as good at protecting me as any other safety blanket is at warding off boogey men.

I still have my corner drugstore health care plan and it gets me through the times when people with real insurance get to see a doctor. Plus, the premiums are low and the wait time is minimal.

A life abroad- Costa Rica vol. 2: This time it’s peanut buttery!

March 14, 2010

One of our writers, Alli Whalen, is teaching English in Costa Rica for a few months. Check back in for her updates on living a quarterlife abroad.

Last time you heard from me, I was eating a mango on a white, comfy couch. I’ve matured so much since then; rather than simply slicing fruit and eating it, I’ve actually tried baking in my Costa Rican kitchen. Actually, baking might be overstating it. I wanted to make peanut butter Rice Crispies squares, and what I wound up with is a sticky mass that I had to cool in a frying pan because I didn’t have anything better to use. Being here, it’s funny how quickly you grow used to replacing your comfort foods with new, weirder items that fill that void. Marshmallows are different here; so is the margarine (if you can call it that). Fortunately, there is an upside: the fruit is unreal. Pineapple, cantaloupe and watermelon have become the refreshment I’ve come to crave more than water to quench my thirst. And the sunsets are spectacular! And the endless blue skies! And the smiles on peoples’ faces! There is still so much that surprises me every day, and so many new experiences to tell you about. This truly is the right thing to do for the unsatisfied, daydreamy, lookin’-for-adventure-and-whatever-comes-my-way twenty-something. Dearest Reader, you’ve got to try this.

In a span of slightly less than three weeks, here are some of the things I’ve done: taught a series of ESL classes for the first time and had many success and a few awkward, quasi-failures (more on that later); midwifed a pitbull; ridden on the back of a motorcycle with a bag of chicken in one arm and a pair of mops in the other, like a hungry knight on her way to battle (don’t worry Mom, I hung on and wore my helmet); seen a real live monkey crossing a road; lounged at a beach all day just to see the sun sink into the ocean; tried fish tacos for the first time (amazing!); attended a local city festival of unknown origin where everyone was dressed like cowboys; smelled more horse poop than I ever dreamed I could do without being sick; shrieked as a 6-inch grasshopper hopped monstrously in front of our camera; eaten vast amounts of gallo pinto (rice and beans); had a brief fling with food poisoning; and sunned myself to a shade of golden brown currently unattainable in wintry Canada. Horse poop and food poisoning aside, isn’t that cool??

Let’s zoom in on a few specifics. I love where I live: The small community of Comunidad is warm and friendly, with a school, shops, and restaurants (or sodas, as they are called here) lining the main road. The neighbours have dogs and cute kids, the corner stores sell fresh fruit and there is a nice, sunny patch of lawn in my backyard that is perfect for tanning and drying laundry. Everyone says hello to one another, and when a car honks and you expect some obnoxious teenager to throw a tub of yogurt at you, it’s nothing but a friendly arm waving out the window instead. Not bad.

I walk to the local school every morning to teach – class starts at 8 am and it’s already boiling hot outside. My classroom is rectangular with high ceilings and two fans that look like they could spin much faster but just don’t have the energy.
Teaching is so interesting. I had figured my students to be youthful, eager and friendly. I was right about young and friendly, but just like any student in class at 8 am, they aren’t always bright eyed and jumping to answer questions. Indeed, I have danced and shouted and widened my eyes at them, looking for an answer: What’s your name? Who has a job? Who has a favorite band? Who can spell the word “Monday”? They’re not stupid. They’re shy, and those moments of silence after I’ve given them my all can be frustrating, especially with teenagers. I’ve got one group who are like a Latino Breakfast Club. It’s surprising but I have the most trouble with teen girls! Who knew? My other group of teens, consisting of boys in big running shoes and cut-off tank tops, had me panicked. Think you get over being in high school when you’re in your twenties? Think again. Anyway, it turns out that they’re my favorite class – they’re loud and fun, but individually sweet and eager to learn; they laugh at my jokes and they erase the blackboard for me after class – that’s enough to win my heart.

I’ve realized that with teaching, you’ve got to expect the unexpected. An elderly woman joined one of my morning classes and I was worried she would fall behind, or be grouchy and difficult. Naturally I was completely wrong. She’s amazing! She’s one of the best students and during a game of competitive hangman against a teammate, she actually snatched the marker off my desk (beating her opponent with speed) and, grinning, strolled up to the board and spelled her word-challenge- perfectly. Another one of my students, Orlan, is perpetually trying to be a bad-boy, but has revealed to me over and over again that he’s a sweetheart who just wants to become fluent in a new language. Last class, he handed me a scrap of paper that said “Hapy day of woman”. I thought it was some kind of weird joke, but I threw it in my bag of supplies to show the other teachers. Later I found out that it was Woman’s Day in Costa Rica, and that he had attempted to give me the equivalent of a greeting card. I’ll keep that paper forever!

I am constantly touched by the earnestness of my students. They’ve got so much character, and though they can be difficult or shy or chatty, to see the look of pride on their faces upon finally learning to pronounce the word “server” (after saying “serber” over and over again) is so inspiring. There is a shy boy in class who I feared wouldn’t progress because he would never enunciate loud enough to be heard. We were learning “I’m _______. What’s your name?” “ I’m _______. Nice to meet you.” Imagine my pride and surprise on that first class when he was the last one to leave and turned back with a smile and called “Nice to meet you!” I hope I never forget the way that made me feel. I feel like I understand why people fall in love with teaching, and why so many quarterlifers head to teacher’s college to seek a career that might just be worth it.

Now, coming back to teaching young people – it’s not always easy. They’re always taIking or fidgeting or looking at me blankly. Is this karma wagging its finger in my face for all of the times I wrote notes or giggled during tests? To return the universe to proper balance, I feel that I must give a shout-out to all teachers of my education past. I admire you so much more for sticking with us students who made class discussion as easy and fun as falling from a plane and landing in a cactus garden. Dr. Whiting, I’m sorry I stared at you with lips clamped shut and eyes glazed; Mr. Novitski, I’m sorry for laughing at you when you burped unexpectedly while speaking to us in grade 8; Mrs. Frauhauf, I’m sorry that the mean girls laughed at you, and that I didn’t stick up for you even though I thought you were so cool; Dr. Hewson, I’m sorry for peeling the membrane off of each slice of grapefruit I ate in your discussion group; and finally, to Ms. Bramwell, I’m sorry that Leslie, Kyle and I played Dare every class when we were supposed to be working on our creative writing, even though I know you secretly thought it was funny. I’m sorry. I get it now.

I’m going to sign off for tonight and watch the Oscars that I missed while in class. I can’t wait to find out who won! I’ll leave you with my best wishes for a warm week in March, and my recipe for a tasty treat when all you’ve got is a craving for sweets and a corner store in Latin America.

Alli’s Pan ‘o Cereal
3 bags of marshmallows (sounds like a lot but there are about nine per bag here)
1 box of the cheapest cereal you can find – in this case, Corn Flakes
4 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 saucepan
1 frying pan

Pour oil into the the saucepan. Wait for it to heat up. Keep waiting. Realize you have turned the wrong burner on. Turn on correct burner and watch the oil begin to move around the pan. Add the marshmallows and peanut butter. Begin stirring the marshmallows and note that the peanut butter is melting nicely but the mallows remain curiously whole. Stir impatiently and note no difference. Turn burner up to 3 (only goes as high as 6). Stir continuously, imagining that you see little strings of meltiness. Realize you are only fooling yourself and wonder what the heck these things are made of. Boldly turn burner up to 4. Finally mallows are melting into a gooey, peanut-buttery ball. Add cereal and stir with a vengeance. As you turn off the burner, realize you haven’t got a baking pan and search frantically for anything that will hold your precious creation. Find a large frying pan, chuckle to yourself, and sheepishly transfer cereal mix to pan and spread evenly. Place pan in fridge to cool for 20-30 minutes. Open fridge later and wonder why you have a frying pan full of hamburger-nacho stir-fry you don’t remember making. Realize this is the dessert you invented and that it’s supposed to look appealing. Taste-test. Nod approval and relish in the weird yet snack-worthy creation you have nobly made with what you had on hand in a foreign country. Enjoy!

Before Graduation…Maybe Even Before Spring Break?

March 8, 2010

Yea the Super Bowl was just played and you are only just now putting down a deposit on the spring break condo in Breckinridge, Cancun or wherever. But, May, graduation, interviews, student loan payments, and W-2’s are coming your way fast.

You are a young quarter lifer, 22-24 years of age, college attending cool dude or dudette, but crisis and opportunity are just around the corner.

Ergo, exploring, growing up and getting along with Quarter Life!

That senior year, last spring semester, just outside of college life, should be spent learning about yourself, beginning to explore the world of careers, potential jobs, bills, around the corner relationships and those people you will be leaving behind. You know those seven other decades of your life coming up. And putting into perspective with the 4, 5, 6+ years you are about to finish off. Lots of stuff to deal with. But, for now let us just concentrate on employment.

Quarter Lives help list activate:

Before the spring break debauchery starts…

1. Begin to develop a relationship with your academic advisor. That is if you have not and you probably don’t. They are actually helpful people and not just a signature for you to obtain when you need to be forced into or drop a class.
2. Stop by your career center and schedule an appointment to meet with a career counselor.
3. Attend at least one career program and/or presentation to hear alumni and other professionals talk about their jobs and career paths.
4. Not too late, gain practical experience and exposure to career fields through volunteer work, on-campus or part-time jobs. Apply, arrange, ass…get thee off of.
5. We need that resume done NOW!
6. If necessary, register and prepare for any graduate exams (GRE, MCAT,GAT, LSAT)
7. Do not burn any bridges for the next four months. Good-byes to faculty, staff, and friends are coming, but they will also be references, contacts and helpful networks for you later on. So do not let that last beer pong game get in the way of a potential job later.
8. While on spring break, try out some pick up lines, but also remember you will need to start practicing effective interviewing skills. Free drinks, mug down on the beach, shameful story or antibiotics…and later trying to find gainful employment. All the same stuff really.
9. Obtain at least three letters of reference from faculty, internships supervisors, fellow students, part-time employers, activity advisors, etc.
10. Your school probably has recruiting weeks. Find out about them NOW!

That’s it. Just ten things to do. You can make it happen. Remember the jobs you are applying for had ten applicants in 2008. Last year they had forty. 2010…well you will be one among many. Be prepared.

Also bonus spring break advice: Don’t drink the punch. No glove equals no love. Mononucleosis and strep throat are a bitch.

“You’ve Lost Your Muchness.” Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

March 6, 2010

You know you’ve been waiting for this remake of Alice in Wonderland in your Jack Skellington hoody, with your Corpse Bride socks, reading the Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy in your Beetlejuice inspired black and white striped armchair. We know, we’re Burtonites too. But as much as the claymation master has wowed us in the past, I was nervous for this movie.

Alice in Wonderland is a story we all grew up with. I’ve seen versions of the movies throughout my childhood with my favorite being the 1985 made for TV version with Sammy Davis Jr. as the Caterpillar who tap dances ‘You are old Father William.’ Everyone has a take on Alice. Even Woody Allen has his twisted version involving Mia Farrow and an acupuncturist. Being such a part of our culture, and especially the quarterlifer’s childhood, Alice is an icon. She inspires curiosity and whimsy- both fields that Burton is well acquainted with. Knowing that, I was still nervous of what he would do with one of my heroes. Remember how you felt before Charlie an the Chocolate Factory came out?

Turns out, Alice had a Quarterlife Crisis. No spoilers here you won’t get from reading any other review, but if you want to go in unknowing then consider yourself warned and go no further. Alice flees a marriage proposal and ends up in Wonderland, where everyone has been waiting for an Alice to save them from the terror the Red Queen. Most Wonderland residents don’t believe that she is the right Alice as she has changed so much. Alice, on the other hand, believes herself to be dreaming. Let’s see- a girl is on the path towards the life that is expected of her, takes a turn and ends up very confused and wondering about her identity. Sound familiar?

She quickly meets up with the Mad Hatter (take a moment to sigh at the awesomeness of Johnny Depp. I got tingles when he began to recite The Jabberwocky.) who is very sure she is the right Alice, but tells her “You’ve lost your muchness.” In a flash I knew that is what this is all about. A path we walk that becomes confused, unfulfilling, and unbearable is a symptom of losing our muchness as 20somethings. It’s incredibly hard to pinpoint what changes or how it changes, but in many ways, we lose our muchness.

Needless to say, Alice finds her muchness and manages to take her life where that muchness directs her. The story that gets her there is fairly straightforward and pits good against evil. This is my one true criticism of Tim Burton this time around. The books were intended for children and read as such. Even then, the characters present us a curious look at nonsense and madness. Burton’s version (written by Linda Woolverton of both Lion King and Beauty and the Beast fame) drastically scales down this depth of character for an audience of children. Rarely are his characters so black and white (though there are many many stripes). Our heroes often come from checkered pasts and our villains typically have reasons for their infamy. Here we don’t need to question which side we are pulling for and have no melancholy feelings towards the outcome. I suppose its hard to develop characters who have been developed for decades, but it would have been nice to feel a little more conflict in choosing our team. They are all mad, after all.

And are they ever mad! The acting all around was fantastic. Helena Bonham Carter plays her insane majesty with the perfection we knew she would. The Tweedles provide perfect comic relief, and Alan Rickman guides our way with the wisdom that only the Caterpillar could provide. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice to a tea (ha) and reminds us all that Alice was very comfortable in Wonderland the first time around. And then there’s Johnny. I’ll leave it to you to critique his performance- but keep an eye out for the Hatter Futterwacken Dance.

A technical note as well: skip the IMAX, and skip the 3D. Usually I’m an advocate for 3D movies as a fantastic throwback to the 50s. But Disney and other studios are becoming guilty of charging us more and giving us less. Up was a beautiful movie in 3D, and the depth just added to the richness of the animation. Here, we almost get classic 3D schtick with swords headed our direction and flying debris. Not worth the extra money nor the red indentation we got from the extra heavy IMAX glasses.

The quarterlife experience is so often about losing your muchness. We lose direction, we lose passion, we lose focus, we lose sanity…but the best people are mad, you know. This version of Alice in Wonderland reminds us that sometimes we lose our muchness and that it often takes a journey to get it back.

Alice: A Quarterlife Rolemodel

March 6, 2010

“Who are you”, said the Caterpillar.

Alice replied rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

This Spring Break, with Mr. Johnny Depp’s soon to be Oscar securing role in Mr. Tim Burton’s “Alice” I got to thinking about that long time fantasy character. Not Depp, Alice! I am totally 100% not gay. I mean Depp is cool and all that, but I am talking about Alice here. Okay, she is like 13 and I should not admit I was day dreaming about her, but I was seriously pondering her role in the big picture of the literary masterpiece and one of my favorite surreal Disney classics. Not to mention she just might be a pretty good role model for QL ladies.

Alice is the cute Victorian blonde bombshell that was the precursor to all dainty literary, movie or television English chica roles who lose their way only to find what they were really looking for was an altogether different way at looking at the world.

Ya, we know…the original author took some drugs, so did Alice, possibly had a thing for the Mad Hatter and do not get me on the whole mushrooms with “long stems.” By the way, what do you call a mushroom with a long stem…?

…A fun-guy! Get it? Fungi? Play on words…kind of thing…Ba da ba! Okay, not that good of a joke. Moving on…

This adventuresome Alice is a daydreamer, a fuss about rules, breaking them and a bit of a pain in the ass at times. Not unlike yourself…

And maybe or maybe not like the girls down the office hall in marketing, Alice (like you can) faces her challenges and shows real belly fire when she kicks ass behind the looking glass. That’s a mirror for those whose vocabulary is more text-ease than the Queen of Heart’s English. Like Alice…go ahead take a look in your mirror. Do you kick bootie on a daily basis? Are you all you can be ¼ life wise? Granted, Alice and you are not some she-Ninja video game icon, pop culture Lady Gaga or WNBA star. Alice is hip-heroine of times gone by when Xbox was a book. Pop culture was a hand drawn Disney cartoon. And the WNBA? Well no one still really cares about that.

You? You too can be one of the legions of QL hip heroines. And that is coming from me…a dude. I believe in ya! Go down the rabbit hole and follow the ways of Alice. Sum up…Have Alice-like Quarter Life Curiosity, Courage and Change.

First. I need to get this out there. Ladies, never, ever drink the punch. How Alice thought it was a good idea to swallow a potion with a note attached saying, “Drink Me” is beyond us. College frat guys would love a few more Alice types at their next kegger.

Despite this one tragic flaw, Alice has the three C’s:

Curiosity, Courage and Change.

Curiosity. Alice is as inquisitive about her new world as you all should be in the 20-somethings. What you think you know should be challenged, what you might have known will probably turn out to be somewhere in the gray areas of life. And what you could not have possibly even fathomed…well there is a wow factor when your curiosity about life pays off. Now some of you ladies might say this kind of trust in the world around you can lead to some sorrow and disappointment. Yet, on the other hand it can lead to great adventures through and on this side of your looking glass. And what is a little tragedy compared to the lessons learned leading to a triumph of QL proportions?

Word of caution. If you see a talking rabbit…do not follow it. You have eaten some bad sushi or the tequila worm. Curiosity sometimes kills the Cheshire cat.

Courage. This is one thing that Alice has deep inside. All she had to do was realize it. In the end she understands that she always possessed the mammaries to face the unknowns of life’s Wonderland. She went in headfirst into that rabbit hole. She faced the ridiculous, meaningless riddles of people and rules of society in her run in with the Mad Tea Party. (No reference to political activist group) Finally, she stood up for herself, played her cards right and denounced the trumped up charges against her from the Queen of Hearts.

Let’s put it into comparative context. Alice might be a metaphor for a recent graduate QL temp who jumps into a new job, has to put up with the fudge-faced policies and procedures of a messed up company. She is overworked, overlooked and underfed. The last part is because the firm’s partners always get the first pickens of Jason’s Deli sandwiches at meetings. She is usually stuck with the questionable tuna. At some point, the proverbial office crisis doo-doo hits the fan and some soul sucking mid-level manager blames her. Would you put up with this kind of crap? Alice would not and neither would you!

Change. You can start out one-way and end up on a completely new road to thinking, feeling and being. It is called in some therapy circles: maturity. Novel concept I know…little scary and way cool at the same time.

Alice starts as a child and then struggles with adolescent changes to become a mature young lady. Though it is with a dope smoking caterpillar and the tyrannical bitch ruler of Wonderland. Yet, who doesn’t have a few friends and a boss or mother-in-law like this? Alice shows us we must first get through the crazy parts of our youth (also counts for you twenty-thirty-something’s) in order to truly understand the wonders and responsibilities of adulthood.

Curiosity, Courage and Change.
Alice shows us that in coming full circle with our own growth takes curious thoughts and actions. She reveals courage is needed to face breaking and obeying some of life’s rules and to give meaning to “our” story…”your” image in the mirror. She gives us the sense that change is at the very core of us all and should be embraced as it comes with experience.

So there is my rant. Kind of a little advice column from a guy who once had a trip similar to Alice’s. Codeine and Red Bull. Whew!

This is what you wanted to do with your life

March 5, 2010

The internet is awesome. It brings us the best of what people can do. Synn Labs has just upped the ante.

Admit it- this is where you pictured yourself working. You want to make full scale laser drinking games and get paid to play with Non-Newtonian fluids (rather than just mixing up some cornstarch and water in your kitchen).

Now, they’ve taken the most sacred invention of nerd and geek-kind alike and set it to music. OK Go asked Synn to help them create a Rube Goldberg machine for their new video “This Too Shall Pass.”

You know you remember the awesome treadmill video that you showed to all your friends. Well here is the next one to pass on. I’m pretty sure that’s really what they meant by “This Too Shall Pass.”

A life abroad- Costa Rica

March 4, 2010

One of our writers, Alli Whalen, is teaching English in Costa Rica for a few months. Check back in for her updates on living a quarterlife abroad.

I’m sitting on a very comfortable couch with white, overstuffed cushions while eating slices of slippery, fresh mango. The lighting is fairly dim in the early evening, and the jazz music that plays in the background gives the room a very luxurious, classy feel. I am the only one here at the moment, and I am relishing my solitude with the music. It’s more than that though; a gecko ran up the bathroom wall earlier, and there is a bowl on the coffee table filled with local coral and sea shells. The words written on the bowl say it all: Costa Rica, which is where I find myself. What the heck?

Late last night, myself and my partner in all that is quarter-life landed in Liberia, a city that lies within the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. After a very long day of terminal-jumping, altitude headaches and learning that one should always, always, always pack food to eat on the airplane in case they don’t give you anything, we were feeling pretty worn out. As the plane landed in our final destination, I was relieved but wearily awaiting the ordeal of customs lineups, security checks and lost luggage. How could Continental NOT have lost our luggage after three flights?

I’m glad to say I was wrong. As soon as we climbed down the stairs to the tarmac, the beautiful humidity of a balmy, summery night washed over me. I was delighted to have forgotten about open-air airports – no stuffy, recycled oxygen! And even more to celebrate: we breezed through customs and immigration within ten minutes. Not even the disturbing sight of my shadow – revealing a silhouette of humidity- frizzed hair that resembled a drowned clown wig – could get me down. I still had my doubts about the luggage, but lo and behold, it was calmly awaiting us, all three pieces sitting next to one another. Sheepishly, I grabbed my suitcase and hopped in the car that took us to our new home for the next two and a half months.

You may have guessed at what I’m doing here, which is volunteer-teaching the English language to the local communities in the city of Comunidad (an easy name to remember). Having taken an ESL teaching training course with United TESOL in Ottawa, I had finally made the first move in a process many a twenty-something has considered or experienced: teaching overseas.

A few years have gone by since my first Quarterlives article about the “McJob” – a basic job one is generally overqualified for and does not inspire one’s passion. Well, after recent months of not finding any job, “Mc” or otherwise, I got a little restless. Like so many others, I had toyed with the idea of teaching overseas, educating others and opening my mind to all sorts of new experiences and adventures. It takes guts, though, to hop on a plane and fly many cramped hours through the earth’s atmosphere to land in a place where nobody knows your name, let alone speaks your language. I’ve always wanted to travel more but have been wary of going it alone, far away from my loved ones, comfortable routines and, you know, hot showers and Pavarazzi pizza delivery. But I found myself at a point in my life where the idea of escaping the grey, bone-chilling winter with someone who makes overseas travel not so scary sounded pretty ideal.

A good a time as ever, right? I went through with it: the ultimate, quarterlifer fall-back plan has become my reality.
This brings us full-circle to my fruit-sticky hands mucking up the keyboard of my laptop and reggae Radiohead covers making me feel at home in a new place. For someone who was afraid to travel, I’m finding that I can’t wipe the smile off of my face, and that I’m curiously awaiting my first week of ESL teaching, starting next Monday. Change isn’t always easy, and I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing when I decided to go, but I’m counting all of the lucky pennies I ever picked up and feeling extremely grateful to be here. Wading into the ocean waters off of the Papagayo Peninsula and drinking a chocolate-banana smoothie to cool the intense heat beaming down on Comunidad, I felt a pretty fantastic realization happening: the world is large, and rather than feeling lost in it, I’ve found a surprisingly comfortable place in the role of traveler. So, balls to the wall! Onward and upward! Maybe I’ll change my tune next week when I’m trying to teach verb tense to a bunch of overheated 15-year olds, but for now I think the hardest part is over, and if I can do it, so can you. It’s better than sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Try it if you may find yourself in those old shoes of mine. If nothing else, come on down and pay me a visit; I’ll buy you a mango.
Until next week, pura vida!

Avatar- a rebuttal

March 4, 2010

I finally got around to seeing Avatar. I had four hours to kill and found a theater that wasn’t charging $18 bucks, so I figured I’d get it taken care of. I went begrudgingly- much in the same way I went to the Matrix 2 and 3.

I don’t regret going, but if Avatar wins best picture I’ll eat my hat. I only have one hat, and it’s really nice. Felted and everything.

I get it, I really do. Fantastic feat of digital movie making and incredible advances in zzzz… But where is the story? I’ve seen Dances with Wolves. It’s fantastic. I’ve seen Ferngully, Pocahontas, and Final Fantasy. I’ve seen Last of the Mohicans, which happens to be the best movie ever. White man comes in, mission is destruction, white man learns the way of the indigenous peoples, changes mind, fights for what is right, becomes one of said tribe.

I knew it was bad when I could recognize the voice of Wes Studi as the Chief instantly. Wes Studi is perhaps the most prominent Native American actor ever. His IMDB page is peppered with characters like Black Coyote, Cherokee Jack, Richard Two Rivers, Sheriff Mike Nighthorse, Black Kettle, Frank Lightfoot, Indian in the Desert (from the Doors), and the biggie- Geronimo. I have had a love affair with Wes Studi since Dances with Wolves (where he played “Toughest Pawnee”) but having him in a movie gives an obvious and definiate connotation of white man vs native.

Even with Mr. Native American, It just wasn’t that good. Predictable every step of the way, and not in a fun Shutter Island kind of way. I’m glad I saw it in the theater, in 3D because, yes, the visuals are amazing and won’t translate to a tiny plasma tv screen. But more so I’m glad I saw it so that I can say with complete confidence that it’s nothing to be so enamored with.

And can poor Sigourney Weaver ever get a break in space?

Career Therapy: Getting professional help when the going gets tough

March 1, 2010

Intro: Deciding to get therapy

Have you ever considered getting professional help for your quarterlife crisis and general career confusion?  Maybe my personal experience will be helpful to you.  Recently, something at work triggered my search for a therapist who specializes in career counseling.  Partially for the sake of exploration for this blog, and partially because I really think it will be  helpful, I’ve started this “column” to document my experience with the counselor anonymously.

The other day, an event occurred at work that made me loathe my work environment more than usual.  It wasn’t so far from the usual things I deal with, but it was just a bad day that made me reevaluate my purpose at work and where I wanted to go with my career.  Typical stuff.  Granted, I’ve been going through the quarterlife crisis for months now.  In general, I’ve dealt with it quite well because of the resources at my disposal, including this blog, as well as a strong support network.  In any case, for reasons beyond disliking my job, I decided it was time to take real action.

Here’s how I got started.

A very close friend studies psychology and is a practicing therapist.  This friend suggested awhile ago, long before I seriously considered it, to reach out to a professional therapist for career help.  I didn’t take the advice too seriously at first because I thought therapy would be expensive.  When I reconsidered recently, the friend provided references.

I reached out to the therapist that was most highly recommended.  The therapist has a Psy.D. and has practiced for years, with one of her specializations in career guidance.  Again, I was worried about cost.  But here comes the big surprise.  It was news to me that therapy is covered by many health insurance plans.  In fact, after calling mine, it turns out that each session would cost me just $30.  Out-of-pocket, the sessions would have been $150+.  I don’t think I have to point out the obvious irony, but I will: My company’s healthcare plan is helping me figure out my next career steps.  It makes a lot of sense for companies to provide therapeutic support for their employees.  If this works out, it would theoretically make me a more productive worker.  Happily, I booked my first session with Dr. R, who was accommodating enough to schedule me for the next day.

Here’s a few suggestions on how you can get started.

If you’ve done career exploration on your own already, and you feel like you need someone else — a coach, therapist or counselor — to help you sort through all of it, I would encourage giving counseling a try.  Start by looking for a general therapist who specializes in career guidance and life transitions, or look for a specialized office dedicated to career counseling or coaching.  They should be able to provide references or statements from their past clients that will give you a better idea of their background and experience.  If you do not have a friend who can give you personal recommendations as in my case, definitely do your homework.  Compare your options carefully.

Next, if you are on a budget, check to see if your insurance covers it and what the co-pay is.  The therapist should be able to give you a general idea, but only your insurance company can give you a definite answer. Then, book your appointment and give your new counselor a try.  There is no promising that the relationship will work out, so make sure you are comfortable.  My therapist offered the option of a complimentary consultation session the first time.  See if this is the case in your situation.  Once you try it out and find the him/her to be a good fit, then decide whether or not you want this to be an ongoing relationship.

Lastly, I want to point out that going to a counselor/coach/therapist doesn’t mean your personal exploration ends.  Professional help is only a guiding force, and I realize the powers of change are within me and within me alone.

If you decide to give this a try, good luck!

Stay tuned…my next post will focus on the experience of my first session.