Twentysomething Summers

Summertime and the livin’ is easyyyyy.

And let me tell you, my summertime livin’ sure is easy. I can get enough of it! As a twentysomething, I think this is the only time in my life when I can truly appreciate a full summer to myself. Yes, I do have to work, but that makes me appreciate summer livin’ that much more.

During the year, I’m bogged down with a chaotic work schedule during the day and night classes in the evenings. By the time the weekend rolls around, I’m either too exhausted to do anything or am catching up on sleep that I barely got during the week. And because of all that, I can truly appreciate the breezy life of a summertime twentysomething.

It’s ironic that I’m writing this now, considering the harsh rainy storm happening outside my window. I think it’s a metaphor. Not every day is going to be summer livin’, especially in your twenties, but I digress.

Today, I had absolutely no plans. And yet, I felt so productive! I slept in, I finished a great book, started a new book, did laundry, cooked meals for the week, went grocery shopping, and even had time to practice a little piano! Why? Because it’s summertime, baby, and the livin’ is easy.

I think society misunderstands the idea of a summer ideal for people of all ages. Sure, summer lifestyles may be relatively easier for everyone, but this post is more about why a twentysomething summer is, without a doubt, the best.

As a college student, my summers were spent one of three ways:

  1. Summer classes or summer research (which is no fun for anyone),
  2. Working a minimum wage job in order to pay off all the ice creams I knew I would consume, or
  3. Doing nothing, spending the summer at home with my parents, screaming for something to do after two weeks of nothingness.

None of these options allowed me to live life to the fullest. And though I haven’t lived the next decade of my life yet, I can’t imagine a thirtysomething summer being as great. Hopefully I’ll have a family by then, but I’ll be older, with even more responsibilities. And it won’t be about my summer livin’, but about my children’s. Which—don’t get me wrong—will be great, but not necessarily my summer.

So what’s different about having a twentysomething summer?

It’s yours. 100%. Not your parents, not your school’s, not your family’s. Yours.

Yes, I still have to work. But that is part of being an adult. Having to work all day makes me appreciate the lack of responsibility I have after work. I can read for fun, I can play piano, I can write, I can watch TV, I can hang out with my friends…or I can just sit in silence for once and be pleasantly content with that.

I think all of this came from a new-found revelation, the opposite of “Act your age, not your shoe size.” Maybe “Act your age, not your parents’ age.” Lately, I’ve been feeling like a fifty year old man, and I hate that. What does that mean for me? It means sitting home alone every night of the week. It means being excited about trying a new vegetable. It means not connecting with new people. It means being tired all the time.

And here’s the funny part: I’m not actually a fifty year old man!! Really though, you may be thinking how obvious. But it took me a long, long time to actually realize that I am indeed still a young twentysomething. I think the full-time job and rent-payments threw me off for a little bit.

I don’t mean to imply that sitting alone with a great cup of coffee and a great book is only for our elderly friends. As a twentysomething, cafes are my favorite place in the world (not the bar scene, and that’s fine). The point is, summertime livin’ is allowing me to even further explore and develop who I am and what I like to do. The year before this, I was in a small-ass rural town, and I convinced myself that sitting home alone was what I liked to do because in all honesty, there wasn’t really a second choice.

But now! I’m in a new city. A big one! With so many people around. Why not take advantage of it? I’m going to go out. Meet new people. Maybe I’ll actually go to that party someone invited me to. Or go to a karaoke night even though (I thought) karaoke was not my thing. Why not?! I’m still going to read and sit alone in Starbucks, but I think I’m just going to be a little more twentysomething about it.

What are everyone else’s twentysomething summertime plans?

L’arte d’Arrangiarsi: The Art of Making Something Out of Nothing (…including a twentysomething life)

Have you ever read a book and just knew you were meant to pick up that exact book at that exact moment in your life?

I have.

This weekend, I started reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert…a book that has been on my To-Read list for at least three years. And yet, it wasn’t until now that I finally picked it up, and I’m not sure why. In my room, I have an entire shelf filled with books. Then under that shelf, more books. Then on the end of my bed, there is another stack about twenty books high. My book collection has a natural way of expanding itself…

Regardless, I chose this book. And I promise, I have not been given any endorsements from the author to promote it. Yes, it’s a great book so far, but for the purposes of this post, I’m less interested in the quality of the book and more interested in its message, especially for us twentysomethings.

In the book, the author travels to Italy and learns the phrase l’arte d’arrangiarsi. “There’s a wonderful Italian expression,” she says. “L’arte d’arrangiarsi—the art of making something out of nothing. The art of turning a few simple ingredients into a feast, or a few gathered friends into a festival. Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this.”

This quote, more than any other so far, has really stuck with me. At first, I imagined my dad in the kitchen back home. Regardless of how empty I thought the cabinets were, my dad always had the ability to look in the same cabinets and make a meal that was both satisfying and delicious. I could never figure it out. To my surprise, I did the exact same thing yesterday! **Relevant update from last week: the no-carbs situation did not go well this week. So as I was looking through my cabinets for my usual snacks (tortilla chips or wheat thins), I came across nothing except raisins and steel-cut oats. The freezer was worse: frozen fruits and vegetables. Nothing that I wanted. At all.

But, an idea popped in my head, a little nugget of information from my dad. Soups make the easiest meals!  I remembered a meal from my favorite Indian restaurant on campus – curried cauliflower and peas – and knew I had the ingredients to try to make something similar from my empty cabinets into a meal. So, I made a little broth (hot water and some spices), added the curry powder, and then tossed in some frozen cauliflower and peas. Voila! A homemade soup. Making something out of nothing. L’arte d’arrangiarsi.

Yet, my soup is not why I’m writing this post. I think the author’s point goes deeper than making a feast out of a few simple ingredients. More than a curry soup from a seemingly empty pantry. Why, I thought, can’t l’arte d’arrangiarsi be applied to life? Especially for a twentysomething…the art of making life itself into a feast out of a few simple “ingredients.”

As a twentysomething in this new phase of life, I don’t want to say I have “nothing,” because that’s not true. But some days, it certainly feels that way. Even though I’m not really in a new city anymore, I don’t know nearly as much about it as I thought I would at this point. My social circle is not as big as I wanted it to be, and my job isn’t necessarily as meaningful as I once found it. Yet, at the same time, I know friends are about quality as opposed to quantity, and I also know that I am fortunate to even have the job I do have. That’s one good thing about being a twentysomething…having an acquired sense of insight to the things that actually matter.

But in general, I think life is like a blank slate. An empty canvas, to some extent. Right now, on my canvas, I have my job, my few friends, my family…and that’s about it. But why not embrace l’arte d’arrangiarsi? Why can’t I make my own life into something that I want? A beautiful piece of Italian art that I would be proud to display.

Right now, I have the paintbrushes. I have the tools. And my artist’s palette is full of options for ways to make my life of a canvas meaningful in some way. Especially now since classes have ended, I’ve been thinking about volunteering more and maybe even taking an Italian class. And I’ve already done some things, like getting a part-time job at Starbucks that I know I will love, writing parts of a musical, and I’ve been reading a lot more for pleasure.

This canvas is mine. And if there are some blank corners, or if I accidentally mix some colors that I’m not happy with, it is up to me to paint the canvas that I want displayed. To make something out of nothing. L’arte d’arrangiarsi.

Avoiding the Brain Blame

Well, wow. A whole lot has happened since my last blog post. I’m not even sure where to begin. I’ve debated my choice of career, thought about switching my life path, reflected on love and relationships, got a job at Starbucks for the summer (!!), did some laundry, downloaded Dogfight the Musical soundtrack to my phone, decided to cut carbs from my diet, and even got a haircut. PHEW. I am exhausted just typing that all out. All in the week of an average twentysomething…am I right?

I thought I’d start with a brief anecdote. The other day, as I was lying on my bed, I opened my Tinder app (God help me) for nothing other than boredom, hoping to maybe see someone cute and start a conversation. Within a few minutes, I was matched with a 19 year old. Not that bad, right? Only five years difference. He was definitely cute and seemed intelligent (from the one photo I could see of him reading a book by some park). Great. Until I remembered that my sister is now 18, and that this cute mysterious Tinder boy was closer in age to my baby sister than he was to me.

With that in mind, I started thinking about how old I really was, almost a quarter of a century. And then a random statistic from my Psych 101 class popped into my head: the human brain is not fully developed until at least 25 years of age. How I interpret that: all of life’s mistakes before the age of 25 can be somewhat forgiven because the brain isn’t fully developed. Before the age of 25 if you drank too much, no problem. Promiscuous behavior? It’s part of the experience. Also, the fact that I just used the phrase “promiscuous behavior” shows that I am too freaking old to even be thinking about blaming anything on my undeveloped brain.

The point is this. As a mature 24 year old, I feel like my brain must be fully developed by now. Granted, that doesn’t mean I will ever be fully developed as a person, because growth and change is a good thing for anyone, regardless of the age.

So why does this matter? Because as a twentysomething with a fully developed brain, I can’t be blaming things on my age anymore. I’m not “too young.” And by now, I actually do know better. This afternoon, I went to Michael’s to inquire about custom framing for a piece of art work I recently purchased. Any more steps in that direction and I’ll be begging for prune juice and denture cream.

So, I’ve done a lot of reflecting lately. Am I in the right career path? Am I doing what I truly love to do? The life I live…is it the one I want? Do I want a husband and kids like I always thought I did? Am I happy with who I am at the very core of my existence? I’m not sure. To any of those questions. And if I answer anything but “yes” to any of those questions, I have to be honest, it scares the shit out of me. Because I’ve always prescribed to this one idea of what my life would be, what I wanted my life to be. And now, just as my brain is supposed to be fully developed, I’m having all these second thoughts. THANKS A LOT, BRAIN!

But I have one piece of advice…the reason I wanted to write this post specifically: it’s okay.

It’s okay!

It will all be okay.

Life may not be exactly what I thought at this moment, but everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that. For example, last night I unintentionally fell asleep with gum in my mouth (at 8:30pm, mind you). Long story short, I woke up an hour later with gum plastered all over my comforter. It happened because I have really been meaning to wash that comforter for weeks…and I just never got around to it, until I had no other choice.

Things might not be how you imagine, but there’s always at least two sides to every situation. The thing I’m still struggling with is not necessarily adapting to life when it doesn’t go as planned, but realizing that the life you worked so hard to plan isn’t necessarily the one you wanted. And that’s okay too. Because, as one of my mentors always says, “You can always change your mind.”

And she’s right.

Why I’m Applying to Minimum Wage Jobs (AKA How to Spice Up Your Life)

This summer, I am applying for minimum wage jobs, despite the fact that I am 24 years old with a full-time career and a full-time salary. For some reason, everyone around me seems to care approximately ten hundred times more than I do. Why is that? I wonder. “Mind your business!” I want to say. But in reality, I want people to ask why. So here is the why.

Currently, I am a relatively young twentysomething with a career that I could be in for the rest of my life. And that scares the shit out of me. I’m in a full-time job with a full-time salary. If I want to go for a coffee in the morning, I have the luxury of not needing to look at my wallet before I place my Starbucks order. It’s nice. It’s great. It’s wonderful. Except for one thing: my life right now seems so stale.

All of classmates are going all over the country this summer. Granted, mostly for work and career-related internships, but still. New York, Chicago, San Francisco. It’s amazing. A new adventure awaits each and every one of them, and yet, it seems like they are more concerned about what to pack in their suitcase then what to pack in their head.

Anyway.

Meanwhile, I will be right here…working the same job, in the same city, with the same people. The thing that’s strange about it is that I love my job, I love this city, and I love these people. So then why now am I feeling so stuck and stagnant? Maybe it’s because everyone else around me is moving so quickly with new internships or new post-grad jobs. Or maybe it’s because I’m finding it hard to see past graduate school. Or maybe it’s because this is my first full-time full-year job. I forget that other jobs outside of residence life (my only other full-time job) don’t operate on 10-month contracts. So I’m here for the full year. Two full years actually, until I graduate.

Is anyone else finding this extremely unsettling?! At least I have a two-year deadline. If I wasn’t in school, this could be my job for YEARS. Now that is terrifying. Is anyone else with me here? After undergrad, there is no more pre-scripted timeline. This or that for a couple years here, a few months there. Or maybe just this one thing for the rest of your life forever and ever until you die.

So let’s bring it back. Why am I applying for minimum wage jobs? Jobs that are seen as “meant for” high school or college kids? Waiters, baristas, etc. It’s because I am craving something different; my body is aching for a change. Much to the dismay of everyone else around me, I don’t need another job. I don’t need the money and I don’t really have the time…it’s just because I want something else.

What are some ways to maybe feel not so stagnant in every day twentysomething life? Great question. And one I’m still trying to figure out. So these tips are certainly not from an expert. Rather, just another twentysomething trying to figure it out.

Find Something You Love*
*outside of work. Yes, I know it would be ideal if we all LOVED our jobs so much that all we needed to be satisfied in life was to work every day all day. But unfortunately, sometimes, that’s not the case. So find something you love to do, really love to do, outside of work. For me, it’s piano. It’s writing. It’s reading. Since the end of the semester, I have done so much of these things and it is EFFING GLORIOUS. Find the time. Make the time. It’s so incredibly worth it.

Think of Someone you Love*
*that is not your cat. Yes, I know. Pets (especially cats) are really nice to come home to. Someone to cuddle with, talk about your day with, and sometimes even eat together. But there really is no substitution for human interaction. Some of us are lucky enough to have a partner to come home to every night. And that is amazing! But for the rest of us, think about who you miss the most in your life right now (yes, right now). And as soon as you finish this post (yes, finish first), go call that person. Show them you love them, that you miss them, and that they are worth your time. It will break up your scheduled routine and keep a smile on your face for the rest of the week.

Try Something New*
*-ish. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. One summer, I had the bright idea of learning how to pogo-stick. I have absolutely no idea why and there was no reasoning behind it. The only thing I gained from that experience was two scraped knees and a missing fifty dollar bill. So try something new-ish. It can really help to break up the routine and get you excited about life. For example, I have always liked to cook. But today, I decided to try and make vegetable chips for the very first time in my life. They are cooking in the oven right now as I write this…and I can’t wait. It gives you something to look forward to.

Any other ideas to freshen up the twentysomething life when it starts to look just a little too adult? Please share.

#AlumniStatus

This past weekend, I visited my alma mater-SUNY Geneseo-for Alumni Weekend. And I have to say, it was pretty incredible.

Before I get into the “twentysomething” part of this post, a brief preface: I graduated in 2013, much to my dismay. I was excited to move onto the next step of my life, until the first time I went back to visit my now ex-boyfriend. I felt completely out of place. I didn’t have a home anymore. I knew I had outgrown Geneseo, and Geneseo had outgrown me. When my ex-boyfriend and I separated, I was even more hesitant to go back. By going back to campus, I was plagued with old memories, throwing my mind back into a place I did not want to be in.

Before this weekend, I hadn’t been back to visit in over a year. I stepped away from Geneseo, stopped donating, and didn’t really know anything about the campus anymore. But as a twentysomething, I felt that it was important for me to go back this weekend. So many good friends were going to be there, and it was only an hour away. All the signs were pointing towards Geneseo.

So I went. And much to my surprise (even though I guess I’m not surprised at all), I fell in love with the campus all over again as soon as I turned on to Main Street. The quaint college town, rows of trees and beautiful flowers lining the campus, the community feel, and of course, the people. All of the positive memories started flooding back and I knew I had made the right decision.

Something was different though. Yes, I had graduated, the new social science building had opened, and the dining hall had been renovated. But there was something else. Two years after graduation, I was finally able to appreciate my time at Geneseo without wishing I were still there, and recognizing that although I may not love where I am in life right now, I really have grown past the Geneseo phase of my life and am excited for what the future holds. Geneseo will always have a special place in my heart, yet, I realize now that it is a time of my past that I am removed from (except maybe on Alumni Weekend). An old chapter of a scrapbook.

So being a twentysomething. How does this all relate? Michael, just get to the point!

Okay, okay. Sorry.

Being a young alumni is just as problematic as being a twentysomething. There are so many conflicting emotions! Do I chain myself to the College Green hoping that I never have to go back to work? Do I go out and pretend like I’m 19 again and get plastered with my friends? Do I donate to a college that is constantly begging me for money when I barely have enough of it for myself? These are hard questions. And if I learned anything this weekend, the twentysomething spectrum for young alumni is NOT the same for everyone.

What kind of young twentysomething alumni are you?

The Alumni on Memory Lane
“Do you remember when we did this here?” “Do you remember when we had this event there?” “Oh my gosh look at that tree where we sat one time!”
These alumni are great when conversing with other alumni. They can bring back great memories, good times, and certainly lots of laughs from previous years. The only problem is when they are having these conversations with current students, they can come off as annoying and too old to be there.

The Hot Mess Alumni
It’s fine. We’ve all been there. This person goes back for Alumni Weekend because they want to pretend for just one or two nights that they are in college again. They might forget their tolerance has decreased a little bit since graduation and they still think they can pound shots like nobody’s business. They may or may not wake up the next morning feeling like a complete train wreck. This is okay maybe once a year, maybe. But just remember, you’re no longer a young college student.

The Out-of-Touch Alumni
This person thinks they know everything about the campus, but in reality, knows nothing. A perfect example that is totally hypothetical and not real at all: Someone who says, “I’ll meet you by the big tree.” And then the other person proceeds to go looking around for literal big trees, completely forgetting that The Big Tree was a restaurant on Main Street. This kind of alumni needs to give their brain a little shake and dust it off a bit.

The Washed-Up Alumni
The former student leader. The one who used to be involved in everything. Over-involved. And now, life post-grad isn’t nearly as good. Maybe they have a good job, maybe going to grad school. But really, they miss college life. A lot. They may or may not realize that they are that alumni, but regardless, they haven’t acknowledged that the campus has moved on past their graduation date.

The Never-Leaving Alumni
“Well, I’m here now, so I’m never leaving.” Nope, sorry. You do have to go back to work on Monday. Real-life does exist outside of the college campus, and you need to go back to it. This person is all over social media with pictures of their beautiful campus. I wish I was a student again! Look how beautiful this building is! These were the best years of my life! etc.

I think everyone is probably a little mix of all of these. I feel like I’ve gone through every type at least once. Where do you all fall on the spectrum? I’d love to hear some other young twentysomething alumni experiences!