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!
You know what’s full of clichés? The letter X.
X marks the spot. Solve for X. Find the X factor. Xylophone, because nothing else starts with the darn letter. eXtreme, because, you know, that sounds like it starts with this end-of-the-alphabet annoyance. X-rated. X-files. Ex-girlfriend. X it out and start over.
If only we could start our twenty-something lives over and X out clichés, these overused ways of acting, speaking or thinking that make us stereotypical, predictable, tired, bland – further from our true selves every time we fall into one of them.
If we could have avoided clichés, maybe there would be no negative images of lazy, entitled Millennials, tapping away on our iPhones in Starbucks while planning a three-month trip to Europe instead of getting a job.
If the world around us could be free of clichés, maybe so many of us who struggle with any aspect of ourselves – be it our body image, our sexual identity, our faith, our career aspirations, our family background, our mental stability – wouldn’t have to feel so wrong, unsure or lost. If only, if only.
There’s no way to avoid clichés entirely, and some say there’s a reason they become so commonplace and overused: because they naturally apply to a lot of us. Fair enough.
So let’s not aim for perfection, here, because that, in itself, could be seen as cliché. Let’s just recommit to being ourselves, original and as unique as can be. It’s not up to me to offer any advice on how to do that.
I still approach laundry like a college student.
Oh, the hamper is overflowing? No biggie. It can wait a couple more days. This doesn’t all want to fit into the washer? Too bad. Stuff it down harder. It’s not quite dry yet? Oh well, I’m out of quarters – time to air dry! No more socks? Well these ones don’t stink too bad – throw ‘em on again! And why bother sorting anything by color or fabric type? Wash it all in cold and you’re good to go.
“Don’t worry if you forget to add the laundry soap,” my mom told me during one laundry lesson before my freshman year of college. “As long as everything gets sloshed around in there, it’s better than nothing.”
That “better than nothing” philosophy still permeates my laundry habits today. That’s why I’m not picky about load size, type or colors. And I usually skimp on the powdered laundry detergent, too, buying the cheapest or second-cheapest variety at Wal-Mart and never filling the scooper completely to the top before dumping it to the bottom of the washer and calling it good enough.
I don’t advocate for a “good enough” or “better than nothing” philosophy in other areas of life. I’m all about keeping my word and exceeding expectations in my career. I’m all about being thoughtful, caring and loyal toward others in my personal life, definitely not about doing the bare minimum in anything that matters. I keep my life organized (except that my to-do lists often become messy) and my apartment clean (except when I’m attempting to bake chocolate chip banana bread), and I take care of my possessions so they’ll last a long time.
But when it comes to laundry, I’m not a stickler. I’m not a germaphobe. I know people aren’t very observant, so that speck of blue ballpoint pen ink on my light khaki pants surely will go unnoticed. I know people are lazy, so if I show up to work in an un-ironed shirt that’s slightly wrinkly, either no one will notice, or they’ll smile and understand. I guess I just have better things to worry about than what temperature my clothes reach inside the shared washer at my apartment and whether my sheets are washed with my dishcloths or the T-shirt rags I use to clean the bathroom sink.
The college philosophy is great – give it the old college try. Stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep until 9, then still make it to a 9:30 a.m. class on time. Think ahead, but only to next weekend or next summer. Try new foods, classes, drinks, experiences. Meet new people and make them your favorites. But spend as little time as possible on dishes, cleaning, paperwork and laundry.
We’ve got all of our lives to manage our households and keep our things fresh and clean. So why spend any more time during the adult version of the “prime of our lives” than we absolutely have to worrying about doing the wash? Even college-style – crammed, procrastinated, mismatched and lacking adequate supplies – the laundry will get done. And that’s something to be thankful for.
“Why?” is a question we all famously ask as kids.
Why do I have to go to bed? Why is the sky blue? Why are the dinosaurs dead? Why do I have to eat my broccoli? Why don’t grown-ups eat snacks? And my personal childhood favorite, Why do I always have to take the first shower? The list goes on.
Kids want to know why because they’re inquisitive, common sense tells us, and because they honestly don’t know yet. They don’t have the school experience that tells them dinosaurs are dead because evolution … or some giant meteor, the big bang or whatever. They don’t have the life experience that tells them eating vegetables makes you feel good and showering is a daily necessity and grown-ups do too eat snacks … just usually not Fruit Roll-Ups and Pop Tarts. Kids ask why because they want to know.
But why is still a favorite question of mine at 27.
Why do I have to wake up so early? Why is the ice cream gone? Why is the laundry machine always taken? Why can’t I just go to bed? Why can’t commuting be abolished? Why does work have to eat up so much of my time? Why am I always thinking about food? Some deeper “why” questions pop up, too, like Why do I still worry about things I can’t control? Why do I dwell on things I’m worried about and talk circles around them until I come up with some solution? Why do I still hold the occasional grudge? Why can’t I grow out of these bad habits? Why as I ending up so much like an exact combination of my parents? Why do I believe? Yet why am I a weaker optimist than I used to be? Why do I still get overwhelmed by long lists of tasks and long-term projects? Why don’t I trust myself more? Why can’t I change that? And why can’t I have this adulthood thing figured out, already?
There are a lot of whys in this world, but they’re all worth pondering. Because when you come up with the answer to “Why?” you come up with purpose. When you dig to find out why, you’re on a quest to find meaning and truth. And those things matter. Why? Because we’re human. Because the purpose of life is to find meaning. Because we’re all trying to find our life’s work and devote ourselves to it, to find what’s real and stick to it. To be alive.
Sometimes, if the question is “Why?” the answer is simple: “Why not?” Sometimes it’s disappointing (to a kid at least): “Because,” or “Because I said so.” Sometimes it’s disappointing and incomplete, even to the most adult among us: “I simply don’t know.”
And all of those responses are natural and they’re all just fine. I’ll leave it up to you to determine why.