Archive for July, 2013

In defense of all things weird

Today, I advise all of you to be weird.

That’s right, be weird in your own chosen way. It’ll be fun, I’m almost sure enough to promise.

You see, weird is in the details.

Weird is that middle name you hide away (Kermit, anyone? Gertrude?) Weird is in that one flop of a song you just can’t hear enough (remember “That Request Sucks” on Q101? Yeah, those kind of flops.)

Weird is in the details of your life and what you find enjoyable despite other people’s skepticism. You could pass on these things, or choose to embrace them. But I’d say life is much more fulfilling when you embrace that inner weird.

My stomach would agree. Why? Well … One time on a summer day, I went and got ice cream and ate it on the walk home. Weird? Not at all – unless I tell you these details …

… First, consider that the ice cream was a full quart. Consider that I was palming it in one hand and spooning it into my mouth with the other (using a spoon from my apartment, not the ice cream shop, I note). Consider I was doing this all while walking down Milwaukee Avenue, among hipsters and homeless dudes, in Chicago. But know that I didn’t eat the entire quart. Most of it made its way to my freezer when I got home.

Weird? Yup, but sweet – literally. And totally worth it.

So get that blueberry/chocolate smoothie even though the mixer turns up her nose. Read your Star Wars fan fiction before bed while wearing your Hogwarts T-shirt.

Do, say, wear, eat or enjoy something that makes you weird – not just today, but any day.

However odd, strange, quirky, unusual, or just plain weird it is, that’s my advice to you and I’m sticking to it.

And now, as proof, I close with a co-worker’s favorite weird sendoff expression: “Smell ya later!”

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An open letter to … the vanity plate drivers of Chicagoland

When you drive as much as I do, you see the good, the bad and the ugly of vanity license plates. Here’s a sampling of Chicago area plates so you can experience the, well, let’s just call it … creativity …

Dear MTN LVR 2,

Why do you live in Illinois? There might be about half a “mountain” in the whole state, and it’s definitely nowhere near Chicago.

Dear FATIMAE,

Did Fannie Mae chocolates make you fat? Probably not. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Blame it on the Dairy Queen.

Dear DATZ DAT,

You should be Elmer Fudd for Halloween. Cue the “Bugs Bunny” or “Roadrunner” cartoons and: “That’s all, folks!”

Dear FORE,

So I’m assuming you golf. But if you yell “fore” before you crash your car into mine, will you try to say it was my fault? I don’t want to drive near you…

Dear MEXCN QT,

Props on your confidence. But is your license plate really the place to show it?

Dear I AM D1,

OK, so you’ve got a big ego. Everyone on 355 doesn’t need to know.

Dear YES DERE,

Sometimes “yes” really is the right answer.

Dear LT MY FYR,

Dig the Doors reference! “Come on baby light my fire, try to set the night on fire, yeah!” … Now all you need is one of those IAFF firefighters union bumper stickers, just for irony.

Dear OSOCUTE,

Somehow, I’m doubting your cuteness.

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The power of words like, ‘I miss you’

I never used to admit to missing anyone.  Parents, roommates, best friends – nope, nope, nope.

I never exactly thought it made me tougher, this reluctance to admit the hole left in my life by not seeing important people for a long time.

I mostly just thought the girls (and in my experience, it was mostly girls) who talked all the time about how much they missed their boyfriend, sorority sisters or best friend were full of it. Fakey. Insincere.

If I was going to say I missed someone, I would have to really mean it. Really. Not just a passing thought of “Oh, I haven’t seen Person X in a while, that’s lame,” but a real longing for a certain person’s presence and company.

In college, it was hard to be away from the important and meaningful people I knew for long enough for that feeling to really set in.

But times are changing.

My important people now are scattered across the country, the necessary and honorable pursuits of graduate degrees and fulfilling jobs pulling them to every corner of the nation.

I easily go months, and in some cases, more than a year, without seeing my close friends from high school and college, and talking with other twenty-somethings tells me I’m not alone in this type of loneliness. I’m glad I haven’t yet hit the situation of one person I overheard, who talked about how excited she was to see her best friend, especially because she hadn’t seen this friend in person in five full years. Yikes.

Times are changing from the splendor of college when we saw our best friends practically every day and our parents on weekends and holidays and just frequently enough that we didn’t often miss them, either. Times are changing, and so are my words.

That “I miss you” sentiment I used to be so hesitant to express now flows more often than I would have imagined. I say it in voicemails to friends with whom I’m longing to catch up. I post it on Facebook on birthdays and with the messages people like to post when an everyday moment conjures up a strong memory of a certain friend.

What hasn’t changed is my sincerity. I’m still annoyed by the sugary-sweet yet fakey “I miss yous” still said to too many an acquaintance for no real reason, and I still refrain from saying it in those cases.

“I miss you” is a powerful statement, so treat it that way.

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Life’s too important to handle it any other way.

 

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A perfect failure at post-work productivity

I don’t feel like writing right now. But when I was commuting home last night, I did.

When I first hopped into the car, I also wanted to make my friend a bridal shower card, vacuum my room, do the dishes, beg the cable company not to raise my rates and make something elaborate for dinner, like lasagna.

But then I got home.

Something must have happened in the car because all that motivation to clean, organize, cook and be an otherwise responsible twenty-something adult completely vanished.

Poof. Gonzo. Outta here.

Once home, all I wanted to do was watch Sex and the City reruns or whatever was on TV, sit on Facebook, maybe pick up some of my clothes off that pile on the floor and make something easy for dinner, like a frozen pizza.

In most cases, what I’ll actually end up doing falls somewhere in the middle. I fall short of the optimistic picture of post-work productivity that I dream up while driving home, but I outdo the lazy mentality I immediately fall into upon arriving.

This usually means I accomplish something, but not enough. What I do get done happens in a procrastinating sort of way that often doesn’t leave me feeling satisfied. It usually means I’ll relax a little, but not enough to feel totally rested the next day as if I had spent an evening doing only and exactly what I wanted to do.

It’s a common dilemma, I’m sure.

So far the only answer has been to take the middle road and remember a song I’ve always found comforting, despite its seemingly dismal message.

“We were made to fail every day, Maybe what we want is just too much to ask, I once reached for stars but now I sell these used guitars, And I wish you all the luck, that I never had …”

It’s “Used Guitars” by Red Collar, and if you like alternative rock, I highly suggest both the song and the band. Even if you don’t, I recommend listening to the message.

It’s basically saying no one is perfect. We’re meant to fail, every single day in things large and small. We may end up doing work that seems insignificant compared to our lofty goals, but maybe those insignificant tasks will make us happy. We may not ever be lucky, but we still have it within ourselves to wish the best for others.

In the context of being productive or lazy after work, it means we’ve got to cut ourselves a break sometimes.

We were meant to fail at chores and cooking and being the perfect gold-star friend or sister or girlfriend/boyfriend/partner sometimes, too. So when we do inevitably fail – whether it’s by watching reality TV instead of studying for the MCAT, eating half a big bag of chips instead of going for a run, or pushing the dust on the bathroom floor under the rug instead of cleaning it – these failures mean we’re real. Next time I’m driving home building a to-do list a mile long, I’ll remember that.

We’re living, breathing people whose desires don’t always lead us to take the best actions. We’re living, thinking, dreaming people who were meant to fail – at least at reaching perfection – every single day.

And it’s only when we allow ourselves these daily failures that life really happens.

The song ends by saying “We can’t be everything we wanted to be.”

Harsh. Sad. True.

But what we can be, for now, is alive. Alive and imperfect. And that’s good enough for me.

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D is for Drinking, but it’ll never be the same

I’m going to play cop for a moment this Fourth of July and issue a warning about drinking, this one directed at newly minted twenty-somethings:

The moment you graduate college, drinking will never be the same.

Somehow, being a “real” adult in the career world changes the experience of having a beer or two, getting tipsy, or going all out.

It becomes a rare occasion, which by all accounts health-wise is a great thing. And this newfound rarity of drinking to excesses actually highlights all the negative consequences that come from getting college drunk.

When you haven’t had more than two beers in a night in, something like three months, needless to say, your tolerance is nonexistent. So let’s think this through, flow chart-style:

When you have no tolerance for alcohol, you start feeling drunk quicker. When you start feeling drunk quicker, you increase your drinking speed, because all ability to pace yourself was trapped in your sober mind. When you drink faster, you get drunker. And when you get drunker, you get an awful hangover.

When you get an awful hangover and you’ve barely drank in months, this hangover seems even more terrible than usual because you just don’t remember how nauseous and groggy a hangover feels. And when your hangover seems extra-terrible, that reinforces your desire not to drink again for months, beginning the entire cycle anew.

And there you have it, the reasons I feel it’s my responsibility to warn recent college grads that the experience of drinking is about to change for good.

In my experience, drinking changed immediately when I went from college to living at home for a year and a half with only a three-month pit-stop in Pittsburgh in between (more on that later). While I feel no shame in living at home for a while after graduation, my home is a place where drinking pretty much doesn’t happen.

Making matters worse, many of my friends quickly scattered across the country for grad school, some adventure or an exciting job, so I lost at lot of people I would usually go out with. Work is a much more constant responsibility than school – you get the very occasional week off, a few other scattered days if you’re lucky, and the ability to call off if you’re sick, or you suddenly get a free ticket to a concert you can’t resist. But without a week for Thanksgiving and spring, a month for winter and three months for summer, the ability to binge drink every couple weeks or so just fades away.

I’ve got a few friends who are still of the more hard-drinking variety. They manage to get college-drunk on the average weekend without it negatively affecting their work or making them feel like complete crap for more than an entire day. I’m not speaking for these friends.

But for all those newly-minted twenty-somethings who happen to be more like me, at least when it comes to alcohol tolerance, you’ve been warned: Drinking will never be the same.

You can certainly still drink in your twenties, if you want to, and it’s likely you’ll begin to find more enjoyment in drinking a craft beer or two, or a nicely paired glass of wine with your meals.

In college that seemed a bit lame – if you’re going to drink, you might as well feel it! But now, it seems a reasonable way to get the best of both worlds. The stress relief and relaxing taste of a couple drinks, without all the unpleasant consequences.

Mellowing out from the crazy ways of our youth, finding balance, remaining responsible and remembering to enjoy ourselves – isn’t that what growing up is all about?

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