Trying to Find the “Perfect Fit”

The universe is really testing me, lately.

finally hear back from a job in New York City, get all excited and prepared for the on-campus interview, and then when I make it on campus, within the first two minutes, I know it’s not the right fit for me. And to be honest, I knew it from the very first email that was sent to me. Call it intuition…?

Regardless, it wasn’t for me. And even though I already knew it before I even stepped foot on campus, I was still disappointed. There I was, in this absolutely gorgeous area of NYC, with everything else a perfect fit, except the actual job I was interviewing for.

Such is life, right?

Surprisingly, when I was telling people about my experience afterwards, the most common questions was, “Would you still take the job if they offered it?”

…what? I don’t understand. Weren’t you listening? I said it wasn’t a good fit, so why would I take it?

[Now, I understand that there is one caveat in this story: adulting. Ugh, it’s the worst. So yes, I understand that reasons why I would take the job include: a competitive salary, a benefits package, insurance, and for no other reason, being offered a job when my current job will be ending very soon. I get all of that. But for the purpose of this blog post, all of that is null and void].

I think that’s one of the biggest differences between our generations today. i.e.:

My dad: Take the job! It’s money! A job is a job! Money is money!
Me: [whiny voice] But it’s not what I love to do!!!!!!

And so on and so forth.

But I’ve been thinking – life is like a shopping spree. Think of your favorite store. Everything always fits perfectly, the price is right. Sometimes, life will be like that. The jackpot. You got the job, you were promoted, you found the love of your life, etc. But then think of your least favorite store – the one you don’t even bother going in…yeah, that one. Nothing ever fits, it’s too expensive, the staff aren’t very nice. Sometimes, life can be like that, too.

Except with life, you don’t really have a choice about which store to walk into.

EXCEPT! And here’s the catch: we do have a choice. We, as humans, have free will and human agency. Aka, the ability to make choices, even in the face of whatever predestined fate there may or may not be.

So, for a very real example, the other day I decided to walk into H&M, which, is usually my jackpot store. But that day, everything seemed to be off. Nothing was fitting right, I wasn’t finding any good sales. I was just about done and ready to walk out of the store when I saw this amazing summer shirt that I fell in love with. Short-sleeved, button down, light blue and navy trims…but of course, the small was too small and the medium was too big, and I just hated it. You all know the feeling, right?

And here’s where I actually get to the point, so get ready.

That H&M shirt didn’t fit, so I didn’t buy it. Why would I? It’s like everything else in life. Does it fit? No? Then forget about it.

Jobs, relationships, friendships, hobbies, activities…literally anything. Why do we spend so much time trying to make things fit into our lives that we don’t even want there in the first place? It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

And as my love, role model, inspiration, and sunshine goddess Tori Kelly sings, “It’s just the art of letting you go.” Letting go is an art form. And sometimes, we just need to learn to let go of an opportunity. A friendship. A hobby. Because even though it may be amazing for someone else, if it’s not the right fit for you, than it’s not right. Period.

Painting a Bigger Picture

I have to admit – ever since graduation, life has been…not the best. You think it’d be this joyous celebration of freedom and fun. Well, it’s not. They weren’t kidding, kids. Stay in school as long as you possibly can. I don’t care if you think it’s too hard…just pull that all-nighter and get through it. And stay in school for. as. long. as. possible. Do you hear me?

Great. Because ever since graduation, two themes have been resonating with my life: being bored, and being lonely. I miss all my friends, who are slowly leaving one by one. I miss working with my students. And because all the students are gone, I have no work to do. And because I graduated, I officially have NO MORE HOMEWORK EVER!! I can’t lie…that no-homework part is pretty great.

But also, I’ve been so incredibly stressed in terms of “What next?” It’s to the point where if people ask me, “What next?” I get visibly annoyed (just a heads up). As a recap for all the new readers, I’m deciding between higher ed jobs in New York City, or taking a gap year to travel in Europe…because why the hell not?

But, I think I’ve been missing the bigger picture.

I have this one friend who has a habit of mocking me in a way that is loving and also puts everything in perspective. I can just hear her saying [insert mocking tone here] “Wow, I’m Michael and life is so harddd, I’m a master of education and I have SO many options…I could move to Paris OR New York…wow! UGH what do I do?!??”

And you know, she’s right. I’m being a whiny baby. I have two amazing opportunities in front of me. New York, or Paris. How can I make a bad choice?

But I digress – the point of this blog post is not for me to verbally attack all of you with my  future stress and indecisiveness. The point is – that sometimes, we need to take a look at the bigger picture.

It’s so easy for me (especially, lately) to get bogged down under the day-to-day stress of these types of situations. And while the day-to-day questions are important, it is also important to see the broader scope. Because otherwise, you lose sight in your vision, you lose your sense of purpose (whatever that might be), and you start to lose yourself. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt that way.

Raise Your Hand

Yeah, I know I have.

So, here  are my three literal interpretations of seeing the big picture:

  1. Paint something
    • Literally. There’s nothing like taking a blank canvas and making something out of it. There’s a reason this is a metaphor to life. And if you’re not a great painter, I guess that’s part of the metaphor. Or, just create something. Bake a cake, write a poem, a papier-mâché mask. It literally does not matter. It just feels good to remember that you do have some human agency, and free will does exist.
  2. Write a list
    • Pros and cons. Go through every option if you need to, every possible choice, every potential roadblock, and every potential moment of celebration. After you’re done, not only will you feel better, but you will literally see the bigger picture of all your options.
  3. Ask yourself: “What will I look back on in five years and be the most proud of?” 
    • I guess this one isn’t as literal. It’s more reflective. But still. By putting this current exact moment in perspective of your entire life, or even in perspective of the next five years, it doesn’t seem nearly as stressful. It makes you look outside yourself.

So here’s to the big picture, and trying every possible way to see it.

A Caffeinated Observation

I saw it from the very first moment your hand touched his.

You, with your tight t-shirt, wrapped around your stocky barrel chest, dark jeans rolled at the ankle, casual and worn-in Sperrys.

Him, rushing in from work, presumably from some very important meeting. A tucked in shirt, plaid, one size too big, khakis that sagged around his waist, and shoes that were a little too polished.

I watched the two of you shake hands, firm, and watched just the smallest hint of disappointment flicker across your eyes.

You, with your grande black iced coffee. Same here.

Him, rudely interrupting your well-crafted sentence to run to the counter to retrieve his large nonfat latte in a ceramic mug and a fat ham and swiss wrap on wheat.

Watching him bite into his food as you sipped your iced coffee, dry of conversation yet full of instant online-dating regret.

Maybe he is really photogenic. Maybe his pictures only showed him wearing a hat so his bald spot didn’t show. Or maybe you aren’t as shallow as me, and were willing to look past all that, hoping for the best. You hopeless romantic you.

You, hopeless romantic.

Him, hopeless.

Me, knowing all too well the feeling.

 

It Takes A Village

So I did a thing this weekend. I graduated with my master’s degree in higher education administration! My master’s degree. Wow, I still can’t even really believe it.

This morning I woke up, with a whole day ahead of me, and I realized…I AM FREE!!!

I am free of papers and readings and discussions and assignments.

But who I am kidding? I will miss papers and readings and discussions and assignments.

I’m already dreaming of the day where I get my PhD, or (surprise new thought ahead) – maybe even a J.D.! There are so many options.I love to learn, so being out of school for too long…I’m not sure how that will be. I know I will love the time off. For example, I’m sitting here at Spot Coffee, 100% fully relaxed, writing for fun, with nothing school-related ahead of me. It really is a great feeling. But after a little while, I think I will start to miss the learning aspect of school. The intellectual conversations. The advancement of knowledge and literature.

Graduating anything is a huge accomplishment. And although I know I have worked my tail off for the past two years, I know that none of it could’ve been possible without the people around me. After graduation, I was looking for one or two pictures to post of influential people during my time at UB as a ‘thank you.’ And it was impossible to pick just two. There have been so many people who have made a difference in my life – from professors and staff, to family and friends. Everyone has been so amazing in supporting me to this point in my life, having faith in me even when I didn’t have the faith in myself.

So for that, thank you.

But friends, family, to the village – I must admit – I have no effing idea what I am doing post-graduate. AKA: please stop asking what I’m doing post-grad, unless you want to delve into a one-hour minimum monologue about my purpose and the direction of my life, listening to me talk in circles and ramble and rant forever.

It’s okay to not know what you’re doing, and it’s okay to not know what you want to do…until you become a grown-up and need to start planning your life. As of now, my options are searching for a higher education job in NYC, or moving abroad as an au pair and taking a gap year to travel. I’m only 40% kidding about that second option. I’ve also been considering law school, which is completely new, but that wouldn’t be for another few years, anyway.

And in my decision-making process, I’ve really found the importance of “the village.” I am not someone who can sit by myself and think and think and process and process and think some more until I come up with a plan. I need to talk to anyone and everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, I am still very selective in who I choose to talk with, so if you are one of the lucky hundred, consider yourself honored.

My pieces of advice?

  1. Celebrate in the moment
    • I graduated!!! I can’t let the dark abyss of future things get me down in the moment. Besides, I know that whatever I choose to be, I’ll be a good one.
  2. Do your research
    • I would love to travel for a year, but is that financially feasible? How would student loans work? Am I eligible for a visa? Or if I’m taking the higher ed route…which schools do I apply to? Which jobs do I want? Where do I want to work?
  3. Live your life
    • My new favorite saying: Live your life! *in the way you want to. And if you aren’t causing harm to anyone or anything, including yourself, then go for it. Whatever “it” is. Do whatever you want to do in this moment.

So until next time, here’s hoping that everything works out.

 

 

 

May Flowers

Have you ever stopped to take some time to think about how far you’ve come? About how far you’ve grown? About how much positive changed has occurred in your life?

I have to be honest – I haven’t really. There are some pivotal life moments where I’ve reflected on all of that mumbo-jumbo…maybe graduations, big birthdays, or the New Year. And sure enough, with graduation in six days, I find myself looking back in preparation of moving forward. It’s the Sankofa bird. Moving forward, but using the past as a guide. I know I’ve blogged about this concept before, but I don’t mind repeating it, because I think it’s important.

sankofa

In looking ahead (post-graduation, new job, new city, new people), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting of the past. On my first day in Buffalo I felt _____. Now, I feel _____. There have been so many ups and downs. I’ve complained that “this isn’t my place” or that it’s hard to find friends here. But you know what, Buffalo has really given me a run for my money. Because sure enough, as I’m preparing to leave, all these people who I really love and care about are popping up around me as little reminders, saying, “Hey! Don’t leave! Don’t forget about us! We love you!” And I love them, too.

I’m really going to miss this place. I’m going to miss the people I met. But I also understand that true friendships transcend geography. Still, it’ll be different.

But thinking about all this made me wonder, how many of us take the time to think about how far we’ve come? We are constantly living in the day-to-day stresses and struggles, or even the day-to-day joys and happy moments…it’s not necessarily a bad thing, living in the present, right? But at the same time, it’s hard to see any growth in ourselves if we forget about the past, and that can make us feel stagnant and stuck.

So today, I want to take a minute or two for all of us to reflect on how far we’ve grown. There’s always darkness before the dawn. After every storm there is a rainbow. April showers bring May flowers. The message is similar – there will always be some not-so-great times, but those times are required to move forward, to experience the dawn, the rainbow, and the flowers.

So today, ask yourself: 

  1. What are three things about myself that I love?
    • Yes, this is the typical, stand-in-front-of-the-mirror activity and force yourself to say it aloud
  2. Who is always there for me, no matter what?
    • Human connection is the #1 factor in human happiness. Who are your people?
  3. What is something that I am really proud of?
    • It can be big, it can be small. I’m proud I folded the laundry earlier today. I’m also proud that I have finally come to find a second home in Buffalo with some really amazing people around me.
  4. What is something that I have overcome?
    • Let’s not forget our triumphs. It’s easier to forgot the hard times, but with that, also comes forgetting about our accomplishments.
  5. What are my May flowers?
    • Looking around you and looking within, what are the things that have blossomed and bloomed for you?

And on this sunny May day, even though April showers, I am wishing you all the very best May flowers.

Twentysomething: The Years of Limbo

Never before in my life have I ever been in a place that is so completely and utterly contradicted. I am a student, but I’m also a staff member. I’m young, but I’m also a professional. Being 25 has spurred this new feeling of adulthood that I didn’t even know was capable. Because yes, at 24, I really thought I had everything figured out for the rest of my adult future.

Not surprisingly, I was wrong.

I am walking around in living contradictions and I am finding myself constantly pulled in every which way. Graduation is in twelve days and I am trying so incredibly hard to be excited, but it also makes me emotional and frustrated and sad and it is just a whole roller coaster full of emotions.

Lately at work, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails from students that don’t really know me that well, addressed to “Mr.” or “Sir.” I have to do a double take around my office to make sure they are talking to me. I get the respect thing, but damn how old do they think I am?!

Meanwhile, I’ll go to my part-time job at Starbucks in the same day, and have all the old ladies come in and tell me how young I am. Or the other day, a middle-aged man came in and called me “bud.” …which immediately resulted in some major side eye, but that’s beside the point.

We are young. We feel old.
We are old. We feel young.

It’s this perpetual state of limbo…at least, for the next few years.

This sense was especially heightened this past weekend, going back to Geneseo for alumni weekend. Walking around campus, I felt like a creepy old man, and everyone around me looked like a child. Granted, even though I am only a (small) handful of years older than everyone else on campus, it feels like the life experiences I’ve had in the past three years have shot me straight into adulthood without ever wanting to look back.

Avenue Q sings about this phenomena perfectly: “But if I were to go back to college, think what a loser I’d be. I’d walk through the quad and think ‘oh my God…’ these kids are so much younger than me.”

And that’s exactly how I feel about everything lately. I feel like I’m too young to fall in love and get married and have kids, but I’m too old to be irresponsibly meeting all these random people for relationship-type things. I’m too young to be in constant career-mode, but I’m too old to ignore the impending jobless/homeless future after graduation.

So how are we expected to live ten years of our lives in this twentysomething limbo?

My best advice? Enjoy the present moment. I know, it’s easier said than done. But it’s true. I’ve heard so many people that just wish they could go back to college, or just be 19 again…but there are struggles that also come along with those times. And on the flip side, “I just want to be thirty, flirty, and thriving!” Sure, I totally understand that. But you could also end up thirty, dirty, and homeless. You just never know…so why hope for something that may or may not happen? Why not try to be twentysomething, flirty, and thriving? I know it’s not as catchy, and it doesn’t rhyme, but why wait to start your life? Your time is now. No more excuses.

I miss college because I miss having a group of friends. I miss college for the social aspect. I miss college because I was learning about so many cool things. I miss college because I was always meeting a bunch of cool new people.

Here’s the secret: I can still do all of those things, today, right now. There really is no point in wishing in what was, or in hoping for what is not. While we’re all in this twentysomething limbo, we might as well make something out of it, and enjoy it in the best way we know how.