Archive for September, 2014

An honest fear of friendships lost

I couldn’t pretend to write about adulthood if I didn’t confess to a few fears I have about this whole inevitable process of leaving behind our tricycle-riding afternoons, our Nintendo days and Mario Kart marathons, our Taco salad Tuesdays and varsity jacket Fridays, our late nights of cheap brews and cheesy breadsticks – heck, our entire childhoods.

It can be scary to grow up and that’s never going to change. I fear making wrong decisions now that will stick with me for life. I fear time, because there’s never enough and it’s not on our side. And most of all, I fear losing the closeness I once had with my college friends and never getting it back – not with those same people, or with any of the new friends I’ll find as an adult.

I couldn’t pretend to write about this fast-moving phase of twenty-something life if I didn’t admit to feeling nostalgic for times past, while sometimes simultaneously wishing for some far-off feeling I haven’t yet found.

I miss my summer working for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, jamming out to the Gaslight Anthem during long walks in Frick Park and gaining an appreciation for craft beer during back-yard barbecues. I get nostalgic for my days in the dorms and those summers I spent at basketball camp and the novelty of staying up until midnight to celebrate New Year’s Eve as a kid.

Yet I’m also starting to form fantasies of a day when maybe I’ll be a decision-maker at my company. Or maybe I’ll be living in a cute little house in the western suburbs and decorating my own Rosie the Riveter bathroom and cloud photo living room. Or maybe I’ll form a close net of nearby friends and I’ll feel like a somebody again in my town or neighborhood.

For all my optimism, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t admit I sometimes feel lonely, and I wish I could conjure up my college apartment full of roommates, or my college newsroom full of fellow reporters and editors and friends.

Friendships just aren’t the same when we’re no longer in school. Distance and career choices and misunderstandings and family decisions and time and who even knows what else subtly creep in and separate us from the connections we once felt.

The tools that help us connect can’t fill the void. The Facebooks and Twitters of the world might make us think we still know what’s going on in our friends’ lives, but we’re only getting the highlights. We’re unlikely to know the recurring characters, the quirky issues that make cameo appearances just to be quickly solved, or the one-time guest stars who have a lasting influence. We miss the humor, the frenzy, the drama – the good stuff – and all we get is the short version. That’s all we give, too, when we text our buddies or call our friends to chat.

A lot of the good stuff of friendship gets left out when there’s no time to maintain the relationship daily or weekly or at least regularly. Yet the importance of having close friends and confidantes in our lives doesn’t decrease.

It’s a problem without a solution so far, except to name it, admit it’s out there, and try to stop fearing it. But getting old can be scary, and sometimes the best comfort can be a close friend.


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Snooze button: The king of bad habits

I have to confess to the bad habit that so far is the king of all my bad habits: Oversleeping.

It usually goes something like this: On any given night, I’ll set my alarm clock for some stupidly early time, like 5:15 a.m., planning to go for a run before work. The alarm will ring and I’ll quickly stop it, telling myself I’ll wake up on the snooze five minutes later.

What a joke.

I almost never get up on the snooze, unless it’s set for a reasonable time like 7 a.m. Anything in the sixes is pushing it, and any time in the fives is unreasonable and out of the question.

So on most mornings, I’ll “plan on” waking up at 5:15 and actually roll out of bed closer to 7:05, which leaves me just less than an hour to shower, fix my hair, become a presentable adult, scrounge up some food, and get going. And I don’t even have to be at work early. Heck, I start at 8:30 or 9 a.m., not 7:30 like some accountants and teachers and engineers I know.

Still, oversleeping has become the most unconquerable bad habit of my twenties, and I can’t say I know what to do about it.

On a good day, the habit only prevents me from running, or makes me run in the evening instead of the morning. But on bad days – when I sleep in like a college kid on winter break, when oops, it’s only Thursday – on those days, sleeping in makes me stressed, annoyed, tired, and possibly even late?

I know I’m not alone in this habit of semi-accidentally snoozing too much time away, and I know my body is craving the zzz’s, or else I’d somehow wake up rested after getting some magic (and so far, unattainable) amount of rest.

So until something drastic changes – like they develop batteries for humans that can give us energy, or the amount of sleep my body needs suddenly decreases by a third, or I become an old person who naturally wakes up before the sun every morning on my own … it looks like I’ll have to accept my oversleeping habit and make peace with it.

I may have twenty-something bad habits (99 Problems reference, anyone?), but sleeping in is No. 1.

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In the ABCs of Twenty-something life, K is for Kids

I bet these questions will be relevant during every decade of our lives, but when we’re in our twenties, are we still kids? Who gets to decide? What does it mean if we are kids? And what does it mean if we aren’t?

Is it always all about the kids? Do kids have all the fun? Are we all just big kids?

The answer is probably yes. To practically all of these questions.

So let’s be realists, here. We’re kids when it’s more convenient to be kids, and we’re adults when it’s more fun to be adults. We’re kids when our parents are paying for dinner, and adults when we’re paying for new clothes with the raise we earned at work.

We’re anything and everything we define ourselves as and it’s always up to us.

So let’s leave room to just be kids. Carefree and immature and full of potential and happy. The essence of life.

Even if we have kids of our own, let us play like we don’t have a care in the world. Even if we’re sure we don’t want kids, let us enjoy a childish joke or play an immature prank. Even if we know we deal with kids at our job, let it not become a chore. Even if we’re isolated from kids almost all the time, let us remember what it’s like to be young and fresh and excited about everything. Even if we’re glad we don’t have to be kids in this world, let us be optimistic and full of spirit and high on potential.

So no matter what happens to us, twenty-something nation, let’s stay kids at heart.

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Sympathy and the hassles of mailing a letter

Can I tell you a story that’s funny in that awful, shouldn’t-be-funny-but-still-is kind of way?

Thanks, I knew you’d listen.

It starts with a boss. Like many twenty-somethings, I have multiple bosses.

Well, one of these bosses, whom I consider a bit of a mentor, gets recruited to a startup and leaves the company. A month or so later, we get word that her mother died.

I want to send my condolences in a sympathy card. The death of a parent is sad, so sending a card is a nice gesture, the right thing to do. Sympathy card. Sounds easy enough. But we all know what happens with these kinds of best-laid plans. They hit road-bumps.

First I completely forget to buy a card. For two days. I buy the card on a Friday night I’ll be spending at my boyfriend’s place and don’t make it back to my apartment (where I have stamps) until Saturday evening, too late to get anything in the mail that weekend.

So I’m delayed another day until Monday, which happens to be a postal holiday. Great. Tuesday arrives and I realize I haven’t even written down my former boss’ home address. Meaning I don’t know where I’m sending the card. Smooth.

After a brief delay for checking my work email, I write the address and get out my stamps. Removing one from the sheet, I freeze in my tracks … and … here’s where the funny, yet awful part comes in … the stamp says “CELEBRATE!”

It’s got a black background, and “CELEBRATE!” is written in purple letters that appear as though they’re lit up by neon lights. Colorful fireworks dot what must be the sky and the entire stamp just looks cheerful, festive, happy. I carefully stick it back to the sheet.

I can’t send a sympathy card with a “CELEBRATE!” stamp, I just can’t. I need something stoic, emotionless. Like that bell on most normal “Forever” stamps. That would convey the right tone.

Luckily, I’m working a night shift this Tuesday and I’ve got some time in the morning.

The next step is to look up my nearest post office, because the little apartment mailbox where I get my Comcast bill and the occasional card from my mom is no good for mailing anything out.

Anyway, the neighborhood retail post office is only about a mile from my apartment, so I throw on a jacket and walk it. I look around to see if stamps are sitting anywhere in the store so I can grab them easily, and get the darn thing in the mail already, but I find no alternative to the long line. It turns out to be a slow line, during which I think exactly two thoughts: 1) This is why all the post offices listed online had bad Google reviews, and 2) If only my stamps said anything other than “CELEBRATE!” If only, if only.

The stamps I end up with $9 and 20 minutes later say “Danny Thomas,” and they’re a bit odd, but they’ll do. The design isn’t too conspicuous, and I think it’ll blend in enough to be ignored.

Walking out of the post office, I slide my sympathy card in the blue drop-box, and it’s finally, finally, finally on its way.

And what do I notice on the way out, but a little machine advertising “Skip the line. Buy stamps here.”

Insert frustrated sigh and curse words here.

So my sympathy card was much delayed. So I wasted a bunch of time and energy and ended up with a sheet of stamps it’ll probably take me years to use. But as they say, it’s the thought that counts. And my earliest thought in all this was: my former boss’ mother died, and that’s sad. I should do the right thing and send a little card, simply to say, I’m sorry. That message is worth it even if I have to deal with forgetfulness, bad timing, accidental irony and all the hassles the postal service can throw at me.

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An official adult debate: Who pays for the beer?

I didn’t let a friend pay for my beer a while back when we were out to celebrate my birthday. And now I know I’m getting old.

In hindsight, it’s not the birthday that makes me feel old. It’s the fact that I turned down the payment. That’s what makes me realize I’ve officially reached adulthood.

I remember often thinking my mom and other adults were so silly when they would get into long back-and-fourths about inconsequential amounts of money for pizza or one-day pool passes or some other activity.

“Lisa, how much do I owe you for taking the kids to the movies?” My mom would say.
“Oh, it’s nothing! Don’t worry about it.”
“No, I should really pay you back. It was so nice of you to take them. Here, can I give you $20?”
“No, no, no – just keep it. You’re always doing things for my kids, too.”

And on and on they’d go. Sometimes the discussions would end in defeat for my mom, if the other woman really wouldn’t accept the money. Or sometimes she’d be the one shooting down some other mom’s attempt not to feel like a moocher by offering to help pay for some activity. And one time, money might have been left surreptitiously in an envelope on a car windshield or in a mailbox, but I can’t remember for sure.

As a kid, I thought it was simple. If someone offers to pay, you should say “thank you” and let them. It’s a nice gesture, so accept it and move on with life. Just don’t forget to make the same nice gesture to that person or someone else in the future. You know, pay it forward.

I carried that philosophy through college, as I remember consciously trying not to be petty about who owes who $5 or who bought the last three loaves of bread or rolls of toilet paper.

But now I realize so much more goes into it. There’s an awareness that comes with adulthood of fairness, equality and, in some cases, the financial situation of the other person. Unfortunately, it does lead to silly back-and-fourths about who should pay for the birthday girl’s beer or that last game of bowling.

If you know someone is not working full-time hours, or just took a pay cut to move to a more interesting job or is saving up for a house, a new car, a baby – whatever – something in the adult mind just wants to help that person out.

Something more selfish in the adult mind would feel guilty for accepting even a small sum of money from someone who might be more carefully watching their spending.

So the back-and-fourth begins, and soon I find myself turning down gas money here and beer money there.

The person on the receiving end of these comments takes my “Don’t worry about it; I’ve got this,” or “No, I’m just glad you’re here, no need to pay,” as empty offers, and I know this. That’s why whoever it is doubtless will keep trying, over at least a few objections, to pay their share.

So we go around the merry-go-round a couple of times. We both satisfy our polite, adult desire to not be a burden on anyone. And in the end, someone pays.

It’s inevitable, but fighting inevitability sounds like another hallmark of official adult life.

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