Well, well, well, lookie what we have here—another year bites the dust (imagine me as a 90s TV bully in a skull cap for full effect).
So this year was a pretty significant one full of many “life changes” (in the occupational sense, not the menopausal). Of course there were some rough patches, some down days, some tough lessons to learn. And though I may look back on some of the more difficult or painful moments from this past year and well up, cringe, or just plain guffaw, I don’t regret any of them.
Where I once brushed past the aftermath of mistakes I’d made or obvious red flags ahead of me, dismissing them as roadblocks getting in the way of my carefree youth (though let’s be real, I’ve always been 45 at heart), I now accept the lessons they have to offer. I’m still an idiot like 63% of the time, but I’m working on it, and trying to become the best me I can be, or some Dr. Seuss shit like that. Something I’m trying to do is treat myself more kindly. I can be a real hardass dad to myself sometimes, especially when the year is coming to a close. I get mad at myself for not sticking to resolutions I’d made, for being lazy or not daring enough, and for the year not having some sort of overall wow factor to it. When you’re too focused on taking inventory of what went wrong throughout the year, it’s easy to lose sight of the victories, however small, that the year held for you.
I didn’t become a totally new person this past year, equipped with more charm, self-assurance, and good fortune than is innate for me (which is what I secretly hope for every new year). But I grew up a little. I allowed myself to let go of some baggage and negativity. I took more chances than I ordinarily would. I was bold (if not in my own reserved way).
Thinking about the rough stuff that happened throughout the year is inevitable, and an important part in shaping our goals for the new year. But I think we all deserve to give our 2014 selves a pat on the back. Let’s not reprimand ourselves for every mistake or missed opportunity, and hope for perfection in the new year. Let’s instead think about the good things, and hope for more of the same.
Here’s the stuff I’m proud of in 2014:
My actual graduation day was a surreal experience. I showed up kind of late, but excited, to the Baltimore Arena where the ceremony was held, was herded into an awkward line of fellow English majors with whom I never really made friends, and, for lack of small talk, stared at a large poster of Stevie Nicks hanging on the wall across from me for a good 15 minutes. However, when I finally entered the enormous arena, Pomp and Circumstance thundering throughout, I did indeed feel triumphant. This was it. The end of a long and perilous journey.
I felt this less so as the 3+ hour ceremony wore on and I had more time to concentrate on how uncomfortably snug my graduation cap was, how my cool and aloof crush from semesters past was sitting behind me, and how I probably wouldn’t feel up to a hubcap margarita once this bitch was over.
BUT after the ceremony let out, and after I spent about seven minutes weaving through crowds of camera-ready moms and sun-hatted grandmas, I finally made it to my family. I saw their faces, and could feel that, yes, this whole thing was real.
I don’t think about it often, but I used to be a really shitty student and struggled through half of my educational career. I think for a long time there were many doubts that I would even go to college, let alone stop attending summer school (which, I might add, I was bomb at… although I don’t know if there’s much pride in being the best at summer school). I improved a lot once I started high school and had more control over my schedule, and once I started college and could really choose my own path, I don’t think there was ever any question that I would graduate. Still, thinking about how far I’ve come, how impossible school used to seem and how second nature it became… well, it’s a trip.
And when my dad came to hug me, with this expression of immense pride that I’d never seen before, it all came together for me, like, “Fuck, I made it!” The day had been so long and weird and full of half-hearted attempts to properly express my emotions to people sitting next to me who I only sort of knew from that one class. But here were the people who saw me through the whole journey, knew the unfocused, daydream-y student I’d been since preschool, and remembered when the odds were against me. And here I was with a damn college degree. And that’s when I finally had my graduation aha moment. It was great.
The day ended as surreally as it began, with me strangely throwing up profusely (after half a quesadilla and only a reasonable sized margarita) and falling asleep by 9. Big days for me just never turn out the way I expect them to. But in hindsight, it wasn’t all that bad. In a way, it was a reflection of my college journey itself: weird, confusing, exhilarating and boring all at once, peppered with vomit, and ultimately offering something to reflect upon and learn from.
To top it all off, when I received my grades for my final semester a month later, I learned I had gotten straight A’s— a first for me. And I really thought I would never see it happen. Stay in school, kids. It just might be worth it. Put My Degree To Use
For how rewarding graduating college felt, the first few months of being a postgrad sure sucked. I didn’t start looking for work right away, as I wanted a little r&r. But I often forget that for me, this turns into restlessness & remorse. I was bored out of my mind and convinced my degree was useless and I would never be employed (even though I had only applied to two places).
Of course, I found work within a few months and was indeed employable. I even had to turn down some offers! (Although these were mostly from movie theaters and Chipotles in my area that somehow had my email)
The full story of my first postgrad summer is really a post in itself. So I’ll give you the brief version: I did find an internship for which my degree was useful. I write articles for a K-12 educational database. I also do recordings for the website’s ESL programs and write some marketing stuff (i.e. “You don’t want to miss out! Subscribe today!”). It’s great experience and to my surprise, and the surprise of any older adult I’ve encoutnered, I’m actually using my English degree. That’s what you do with a B.A. in English, bitchez!
On the weekends, I work at a book store, which is a job that my degree also helped me get (“I studied English literature, therefore I would be a great asset to your store, which sells literature”).
I’m grateful to be employed. Times is tough. And both work experiences have given me great material to write about in the future. I’m most definitely going to write about the Washington Times building where my internship’s office is located. The building, while beautiful, is very sparsely populated (except at night, when I am certain it is populated by ghosts… the ghosts of print journalism! BOOM). Seriously, though, I don’t know how Stephen King discovered the secret to time travel, all I know is that in the 70s, King was somehow able to see the present day Washington Times building and use it as inspiration for the hotel in The Shining.
Another great thing about my internship is that I get a lot of entertainment out of my work. Here is some of the clip art I have come across in the search for images to accompany my articles:
Played Open Mic Night
During my time at college, my friend and I lazily mused about participating in one of the monthly open mic nights on campus—he’d play guitar and I would sing—but something always got in the way; I had a paper to write, or he had to work. Now my final semester was coming to a close with only a few open mic dates left. A part of me really wanted to do this before I graduated, but I was a little terrified of the whole thing
Although I spent countless hours of my youth on stage, I still get hella nervous performing in front of people, especially small crowds. There’s a difference between performing in a darkened auditorium, mugging and shouting for the approval of a faceless entity, and performing in, say, a well-lit coffee house, where you can see the faces, sense the anticipation, smell the french fries… you get it. I am not comfortable in front of small crowds.
The final open mic night arrived, and I was still unsure if I was going to do it or not. Two hours before it started, my friend informed me that he needed to work on a project and couldn’t make it. I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to say I had played open mic during my time at school. But then the part of my brain that isn’t a self-defeating sad sack was like, “DUH, you can still do the open mic night! Just get your guitar and go!”
I never had any intention of accompanying myself. From entering college with the ability to only plunk out one Modest Mouse song on the guitar, I had actually developed into a sufficient player by the time I left. I was in no way confident enough in my skills to show them off to strangers, but I was determined to do this one thing before I graduated.
I signed up for the 6th or 7th slot in the night, thinking others would write their names in the blank spaces above mine. They didn’t, and I was the second to perform. Unprepared and shaky, I took to the stage. I broke the tension with a joke about puking on the stage (next stop stand up, am I right?).
I played a fast, short version of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” and killed it. Well, I fucked up some of the chord progressions and straight up didn’t play the bridge and final chorus, but I belted my heart out and was happy to be up there. Yes, it was terrifying and kind of embarrassing, but so worth it. I finally did that one thing I’d been so on the fence about and boy, it felt güd.
(Finally) Started Making Videos
I actually wrote a whole blog post about this, so I won’t go into it too much, but this was a pretty big deal for me. I’ve wanted a camcorder for many years and have notebooks filled with video ideas (that are probably unusable due to dated references to Justin Bieber’s hair and the 2008 Golden Globes or something).
Point is, I finally got a camcorder and for the first time, am able to see all these dumb ideas I have come to life in a new way. People, who before could only enjoy my Full House fan fiction or crude drawings, can now be enthralled by the gifts I have to offer as a director and cinematographer *tosses hair*
I’m basically Martin Scorsese, guys.
It’s a lot of fun, and who knows? Maybe someday I’ll actually produce something worthwhile!
Below are some other fun/cool/semi-daring things from 2014 I can smile about:
Had One Last Hair-rah
For about seven years, destroying my hair has been a favorite pastime of mine. I have dyed, bleached, hacked off, and shaved every healthy swath of hair that has ever grown on my head. And it’s a damn joy. If you’ve never done it, and you don’t have a job that would reprimand you for it, I highly recommend it. I’m not one for tattoos. I think they look cool and can certainly have real significance… but I mean, one time I saw a picture of a guy with a KoЯn tattoo. So I’m all about playing with your hair. You may do something silly or immature with it, but it grows out.
By my last year of college, my hair experiments, as well as my general attempts to appear edgy, had come to a stand still. I set my Doc Martens aside and instead donned a pair of impossibly comfortable fake Ugg boots. And I mostly wore the same Monkees tour T-shirt every day. Though there is something to be said for shrugging off the pressures of looking hip, my new look could have best been described as “extra on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
When my final semester rolled around, I began to realize that once I graduated and set out on the mythic “job search,” my fashion options would be limited. If I wanted to do something crazy, I’d better do it now. So I went to beauty supply store, bought a bleaching kit and a jar of Manic Panic Infra Red dye, and had at the ends of my hair. My hope was that I could create some sort of alternative ombre effect, but I am neither knowledgeable enough about hair numbers, nor skilled enough with dying tools to pull that off. So I just turned out a brunette with chunks of bright hair. And that was cool. This was after all, my last hair-rah. And it was fun while it lasted. Now I’m back to my roots, quite literally, although instead of fake Ugg boots and a Monkees tee, this bitch is wearing a smart blazer and sharp boots!
Marginally paid intern Working woman in the house!
“Getting Out There” in the Dating Sense/Taking More Chances
My experiences with guys were not great in college (i.e. terrible). Let’s just say I was not often on the same page with any of my “suitors,” and as a result, was wary of dating for awhile. Now that I’m out of college not as surrounded by assholes, I feel more optimistic about the whole thing. In fact, I’m being pretty bold. I made a dating profile. I may have even exchanged numbers with a guy via said dating profile and made boring small talk and a flimsy plan to “meet up sometime.” Things are happening. Facetiousness aside, I am actually excited about this dating stuff. It’s kind of terrifying, but just allowing myself to try this has made me feel bolder in other parts of life. Allow me to bore you with a story…
Not too long ago, I was at a somewhat awkward work dinner. I was sitting across from a cute former intern with whom I’d never actually worked, but had hoped to meet. I first saw him when I interviewed for the internship and was immediately struck by his floppy hair and ironic loafers. When I told my future boss about my upcoming vacation plans, cute former intern guy chimed in “I heard Asheville is cool.” So I mean, we really hit it off. Then I started my internship, and was dismayed to find out he’d found another job. But here he was! At this weird ass dinner!
I have no idea how to behave in front of someone I’m interested in, but when cute former intern guy mentioned the Korean karaoke place next door, I was actually able to behave like a human being and, in turn, make a joke. He responded to my sterling sense of humor by inviting me to the karaoke place with him and his friends after dinner. I was taken aback. Was he just being polite, or was this an invitation of genuine interest? If so, the scenario still seemed unappealing to me. Singing in front of strangers? Hanging out with this dude’s friends? But in a rare moment, I was able to swat those thoughts away and have some balls. “Sure,” I said, excited to step out of my comfort zone, and possibly into this dude’s comfort zone if you know what I’m saying (gross).
But alas, cute former intern guy’s invite was heard round the table, and after a collective silence, he politely extended the invitation to everybody. So, you guessed it, I went to karaoke with cute former intern guy, his friends, my boss, coworkers, and some weird IT dudes.
I’d never been to Korean karaoke before, but it’s done in a soundproofed private room (like the one in Lost in Translation). Your music is accompanied by videos that seemingly have nothing to do with the song. For instance, Frozen‘s “Let It Go” was paired with a video of a drug-addicted girl begging for money on the streets. My Korean coworker told me that the videos used were clips from popular Korean dramas, so that makes sense (kind of).
I was excited to discover there was a Prince song in the songbook, so when my turn came, I sang “Kiss.” I don’t know if you know this, but the lyrics in “Kiss” include “I just need your body, baby” and “I know how to undress me.” So singing that in front of my boss was kind of the worst.
But later I redeemed myself with a tamer selection, and received a perfect score on the song (being the only one to do so all night)! I also sang a duet with cute former intern guy and thought he was smiling at me the whole time, but later realized this was because the lyrics were on a TV right above my head.
Though the night was strange, and didn’t result in me making out with cute former intern guy, I had fun anyway. 90% of the time, if I’m already out, I’ll say no to the proposal of another outing. I am an introvert who needs a good weekend of down time after one night out. But for whatever reason (cute guy), on this night I said yes. And I’m really glad I did! The karaoke got everybody loosened up and laughing after a stiff dinner, I sang in front of a small group (!), got to know some of my coworkers better, and my boss got to see a new side of me (though unfortunately had to listen to me sing “Kiss”).
It was awesome. And I owe it all taking a chance!
Swam Next to a Waterfall
My sister and I were on a trip in Asheville, North Carolina, where there are a lot of beautiful sights to be seen (also a lot of white dudes with dreads). One day, we walked down some rocky steps in a forest to check out a waterfall.
The only other waterfalls I’ve seen were the ones at Niagra Falls, which are almost too big to wrap your mind around. Although you can look right at them, hear thousands of gallons of water crashing onto the rocks, and feel the mist, you still feel like you’re looking at a postcard. They feel far away. This makes for a lot of tourists stepping onto railings to “get closer” and weird desires to jump in (though you would absolutely die). I’m pretty sure this is some kind of phenomenon that has its own Wikipedia page.
Anyway, this waterfall in Asheville was no Niagra piece of work. It was big, but not overwhelmingly so. It was loud, but in a way your ears could process and fuzz out (like, for lack of a better analogy, a setting on SimplyNoise.com). It had a tangible greatness to it and I wanted to get as close to it as I could.
A lot of other tourists stood around my sister and I, all staring at the falls from a close but safe distance. I noticed one or two people approaching the base of the waterfall, and I decided that’s what we needed to do. So I led my sister across some slippery ass rocks (this was a bit of a first as she is usually the instigator of adventurous pursuits). On our
walk crawl to the waterfall, we looked like idiots, slipping and falling all over the place, bruising and cutting up our legs, but we made it to the other side.
Once there, I plunged into the freezing cold water and emerged at the foot of the waterfall. I lost myself in the sound and the mist, trying to spot individual droplets before they disappeared back into the sheet of rushing water. It was truly peaceful—one of those “one with nature” moments that I haven’t had many of, as I didn’t grow up in a Jack London story. Again, the year wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, and many of the strides I made were small. But as 2015 is on the horizon, I want to think about the good stuff that made up 2014. Hope everyone else will do the same. Have a happy new year!
*The 3 of you who read this (though perhaps I’m overshooting), feel free to chime in with 2014 stories of your own!*