Archive for category Random but Awesome

A happy life … One daydream away

Here’s a late-breaking addition to the list of things that are different as an adult: daydreaming.

It just isn’t the same. Without classes to space out in and without assigned reading to have open while falling deep into thought, daydreaming feels different. It’s not any less satisfying, but it’s certainly less common. I’ve realized, I miss it.

As a teen, I’d daydream about getting asked to the homecoming dance or getting to wear a football player’s jersey to school on game day as his girlfriend. (Such meaningless, stupid desires to aim for, I know now, but they were on my high school mind nonetheless.) In college, I’d daydream about getting an internship with the Chicago Tribune or having a fairy-tale romantic ending to what was best left as a great friendship. I’d daydream to relieve the stress of desiring it all — my dream job, the ability to write for pay, the continued closeness of family and friends, and love, a relationship to bring it all together — but having none of it at the moment. Daydreaming was an escape.

It still can be, but I find myself using it as a strategy less and less often. When I space out during boring budget meetings I’m covering for work, my daydreams are far more shortsighted. Usually I’m just pining for sleep or for the dinner I didn’t really get to eat because the meeting started at 6 p.m. and I had to fight the slow annoyance of suburban rush hour traffic to get there on time. Or I’m impatiently waiting for the next weekend, can it please mercifully come! My daydreams have shrunk in imagination, and at the same time, in relief. Whoops.

Maybe this means I’m a little more present in the world at the moment. Maybe it means I’m closer to “having it all” than I was in high school or college, so my brain can live in the now without having to look forward to having things like a hard-fought career and a wonderful relationship of teamwork. Maybe.

But maybe it also means I’m not thinking far enough in advance. That I’m not dreaming big enough. That I should be expecting more from myself now that I have earned the securities I have in my job and my life. I guess I just need practice. Daydreaming practice.

It’s easy to let daydreaming fall by the wayside when the constant nature of adulthood weighs you down. Each day you have to wake up, work out (if you’re active, which is a good thing), prepare food, commute, work, prepare more food, try to do something more productive than just watch TV and go to sleep with enough time to generate enough energy to do it all over again. It’s exhausting.

But it’s life. It’s our gift. And we can see it that way if we just allow our minds to expand on it and take us elsewhere in a nice daydream every once in a while. Starting now.


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A twenty-something’s Halloween secret

Last year, I was nothing for Halloween.

Kevin and I wore khakis and white shirts and told people we were the “boring couple.” But we only made the joke a couple of times and it mostly just looked like we were in a plain outfit instead of a costume.

That wasn’t how the other twenty-somethings at this party in Chicago handled the annual ritual of costuming. Luckily, these weren’t people who went all-out in intricate zombie makeup, expensive and extravagant costumes or quirky full-body suits.
Everyone told us they found a simpler solution to what to be for Halloween: Last year’s costume.

One friend was a flapper for the second year in a row, in a flashy red dress and a feather headband. Another was wonder woman. One guy went as a repeat pirate, and he wasn’t even any pirate in particular. My brother borrowed my old soccer referee shirt and went as an official for the second year and I think a cat costume I encountered was a repeat, too.

None of them had any shame. They still looked festive and rocked their re-run costume, whatever it was. They knew they had saved time and money that they could put into other things, like more coffees with friends, longer bike rides and a new sweater to wear lots more times than the average Halloween costume.

If I only had went back into my stash of previous costume ideas, I could have been something much better than one half of “the boring couple.” I could have been a boy scout, a hippie, a garbage can — complete with candy wrappers taped to a black plastic bag. I could have dressed up as Avril Lavigne and rocked a cheap checkerboard tie and thrift store Dickies pants I bought a few years ago for the occasion. I’ve worn that yellow soccer shirt and been a ref, before, and I could have borrowed a set of my sister’s scrubs and been a nurse with no trouble at all.

Now I know the trick. When your mid-twenties hit, and if that means you no longer feel the urge to put much effort into Halloween, the secret answer is in the past. Dig back as far as you want and unearth something vintage. As they say, wait long enough and the old will be new again! Happy candy day!

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24 reasons twenty-somethings love fall

The weather is beautiful and so are the trees.
Hot chocolate.
It’s no longer back-to-school season.
We’ve grown out of thinking whichever season contains our birthday is automatically the best.
Football is a good reason to drink beer with friends.
Tailgating on asphalt parking lots is no longer a terrible idea.
Caramel apples.
Everything pumpkin.
Pretending to be a kid again in corn mazes.
Weekends don’t get booked as quickly as they did in the summer.
It’s the perfect time to go biking.
Crunchy leaves.
Turkey trots.
Black Friday.
Or, forget that: Online shopping.
Sweaters, blankets and boots are all acceptable again.
It’s a good excuse to cuddle.
Being lazy is quite OK on gray fall days.
The holidays are coming.
Days off are coming.
It’s almost basketball season.
There’s no more need for a beach body.
It’s not winter.

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The Law of Attraction and contagious optimism

The person on the other end of the line said she’s a “love attraction” coach. I knew I needed to ask more questions.

A “love attraction” coach? I thought. Well, that’s strange, and certainly not what I thought I was writing about …

Turns out this woman actually said she’s a “Law of Attraction” coach, which some might see as equally strange. But I’m discovering the so-called Law of Attraction actually is just a philosophy of contagious optimism. I was a skeptic at first, but I’m beginning to see the point. Here’s why:

My boyfriend first told me about the Law of Attraction. If you wake up happy and expect to have a good day, you will, he said. And if you wake up grumpy and expect to have a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” like Alexander in the well-known children’s book, well, then, you will. It’s that simple.

Bogus, I called. It’s not that simple. Sometimes – OK, more like most of the time – I wake up groggy and annoyed that I can’t just go back to sleep. But that doesn’t mean my day actually will be tired, slow and annoying until it finally is time to go back to sleep. It just means I don’t wake up immediately on the right side of the bed and I need 10 to 15 minutes in the bathroom before I can rise and shine.

Fine, he says. It’s not that every thought that crosses your mind has to be positive. It’s just saying that positivity attracts more positivity, and negativity attracts – you guessed it – more negativity. It really is that simple.

I don’t know about that, I’d say. Back in high school, the principal’s tagline at the end of the morning announcements was “make it a great day or not, the choice is yours,” and while that makes logical sense, all it did was annoy us endlessly. It didn’t motivate us to set a positive mindset and keep it that way, bringing good vibes and good test results all day long. It just motivated us to make fun of the principal.

High schoolers, he’d say with a sigh, and leave it at that.

This type of conversation occurred multiple times and I could always find some reason to call bogus, mainly because I don’t believe in the old mental trick of “fake it ‘til you make it.” I don’t believe anyone can instantly go from pissed off to pleasant just because they want to; it’s a process, and it takes time. And I don’t think life and emotions and actions can (or should) be faked. This is the only chance we get, so we need to make it real and live it authentically

But every time I’d cast my doubts about the simplicity and effectiveness of Law of Attraction thinking, my boyfriend would bring me back to what he thinks is at its core: choosing to be happy, choosing to retain a positive outlook and choosing to see the glass half-full. It’s a choice, seems to be all he’s saying. You won’t feel perfectly happy all the time, but you can remind yourself that you have a choice. And that can help you take actions that might actually bring more happiness your way. And that I do agree with. So does the woman I interviewed who’s got some certification or another to be an official “Law of Attraction” coach for all the pessimists and doubters out there who can’t figure it out themselves.

As far as doubters, I’m not ashamed to say I was one of them. Sometimes this philosophical stuff sounds too pie-in-the-sky and full of fluff to be worth anything in today’s real world. But if all this Law of Attraction philosophy is saying is “you’ll be happier more often if you choose to be happy,” well, then I’m on board. And I’ll start now.

This Tuesday, I choose to be happy, and I’ll see what that happiness will bring my way.


(Disclaimer: This is not an official Law of Attraction post; it’s just one twenty-something’s thoughts.)

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Alumni bars: Flash back to college one sip at a time

On one Chicago night after a Bulls game, I realized I am a fan of alumni bars. It’s easy to like an alumni bar for your own alma mater, especially if you spent any of your college years in the football or basketball superfan cheering section. But I discovered my love for alumni bars at a pub filled with alumni of a school I didn’t even attend – Marquette University.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t an Illini in a Golden Eagles bar alone just for fun – I was there with two Marquette alums and co-workers who had told me the place was great. They were right.

There’s just something about alumni bars that brings you back to the college drinking experience. Maybe it’s the low light – it makes everyone look your age again, whether they are or not. Kind of like the magic of that third or fourth beer. Yup, that’s college all over again. Or maybe it’s the drink specials. Anything for $2, especially if it’s a $2 U-Call-It, has college written all over it. And not in a bad way. In a cheap and awesome way.

It could be the bartenders’ shot-pouring style that makes alumni bars so awesome. It, too, is reminiscent of college. Alcohol and mixers are both spilling all over the counter as the bartender hurriedly drips liquid from one shot glass to the next, without stopping the flow for that bit of space in between. It’s not a mess you’ll find at every post-college drinking establishment, but it’s there at the alumni bars, and it’s a welcome sight.

Free drinks from the friends you make while standing in line (yup, these places have lines, just like campustown bars) don’t hurt the alumni bar’s cause, either. Especially because in most cases, these people have matured just enough to not be creepy

Collegiate sports on TV, especially during March Madness or college football bowl season, certainly adds a bit to the campus vibe – but then again, who’s actually watching? Anything on the walls in your school’s colors might just make you feel that last bit at home in an alumni bar, but the connection to the school itself doesn’t seem to be the biggest plus of these places. It’s kind of an afterthought, really.

More than blue and gold, or orange and blue, alumni bars bring you the college mindset, back in action for just a few hours at a time. You can leave whenever you want, and be right back to twenty-something awesomeness.

But alumni bars rock because everything tangible and intangible about them lets you re-live, however briefly, the good times and the drunken times of those four years called college. So why not give an alumni bar a try, even if it doesn’t match your alma mater.

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The texting clues to our twenty-something lives

If the twenty-somethings of today were to vanish completely from the Earth, leaving only our cellphones or text message records behind, we would actually give the anthropologists of the future some pretty good clues into what matters in our lives.

We care about our moms and our friends. We communicate differently with our dads than with our coworkers. We can make a joke out of anything. We’re not always very prompt; we sometimes ignore each other. Acronyms have taken over for real words and most messages are short – no matter how important.

We text frequently, staying in almost constant communication with people like our BFFs or
boyfriend/girlfriend/partners. Distance might be an obstacle, but we don’t let it get in the way of our friendships or family connections.

Read through someone’s texts and you can see all of this and more.

When one of my close friends from college included me and another close friend on a group text to tell us some exciting news, I was impressed again at the variety of messages our texting conversations can carry.

This particular chain started out about an engagement. The guy who texted the other two of us sent a photo of his girlfriend’s left hand with a simple, beautiful, diamond engagement ring. There were no words, only a smiley face type thing that looked like this :-)! Proving another point about distance, these texts were traveling between Chicago, the Western suburbs and Hawaii, of all wonderful places.

Anyway, after some enthusiastic congratulations, the conversation shifted to getting the group back together, to music – one of our favorite topics – and to an old memory of building an igloo as 21-year-olds, just to sit in it and drink beer. (Not just any beer, we’re talking snow-chilled Coors Light. It was fanstastic.)

The whole thing certainly made me smile, but look through the other texts I had on my phone at the time, and the anthropologists of the future could see that my life has a lot to do with variety.
There’s work and play, family, friends and love. And a big bunch of random.

A source for a story at work who happens to be a heroin addict. Two separate text chains of friends praising me for another story I wrote about the cause of death of a Chicago Blackhawks staff member. A school board member who was asking me if my newspaper had any pictures that she could use for her re-election website. One of those five-digit numbers I texted to vote for a player for the NBA all-star game (I chose Butler, Jimmy Butler of the Bulls, that is). And then that fantastic news of my friend’s engagement.

Texting is only one way we communicate and I’m quick to caution about its limits in conveying tone, body language, emotion and sarcasm. I shy away from texting things that are really important, when I can. But I might as well admit that what’s in my texts is a good reflection of my life. And if it continues to show a whole lot of variety, I’m happy to keep it that way.

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A holiday trip down wifi memory lane

What do Abraham Linksys, Father Fingers, TOMADACHI and 301 bottles of beer on the wall have in common?

You could fire up your computer, sign into the Internet and look it up, but it’s not the actual Googling that will give you a clue. It’s the signing online part.

These are just a few of the wifi networks I’ve seen or signed into in the eight-year lifespan of my trusty Dell laptop.

Looking through lists of old wifi networks is a fun way to travel down memory lane. You get to read clever, quirky names that remind you of places you used to frequent, and you can do it all without even having to know the password.

Browsing through wifi names, you can find puns like these, often playing on the word “wifi” itself (note, these are courtesy of Facebook posts from friends still in college): WI believe I can FI; Bill Wi the Science Fi; Pretty fly for a WIFI; hide yo kids hide yo wifi.

A quick review of my wifi networks list shows where I’ve been. There’s my home network and a whole bunch of non-creative ones from college: UIUCnet and uipublicwifi on campus; Illini Media at the Daily Illini newsroom; starcrest at the Laundromat where I washed my clothes most of junior and senior year; Volo @ County Market 1 at the grocery store two blocks from my place that had a nice coffee shop; and Urbana Free Library, the aptly named network at the downtown Urbana book hub, a great place with a calm, studious vibe that puts most city library branches and suburban libraries to shame.

A few wifi networks on my list prove I was in Pittsburgh, like CLP-SQ Hill Library (I guess I like libraries. Makes sense, as a words person). As for Crazy Mocha, 61c, and BIGGBY WIFI, well, those are all coffee shops. I do have a weakness for coffee shops.

I’ve even got a few from a vacation to California: Pacific View Inn 4 and PEETS, representing a cheap but perfectly passable motel and another coffee shop.

As great as it’s been to reminisce through my wifi networks list, I’ve got to go. The network at my apartment – named ATTMUNCS and some random numbers, which is not as cool as my old apartment wifi network called black sox bill for some reason completely unknown to me – needs a break. Until next time, my twenty-something friends, enjoy the Internet and the treat of clever wifi names.

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