30 Before 30: Day One

As mentioned yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the adventures I truly want to pursue before I turn 30.  It’s not that 30 represents an endpoint to me or that I feel I have to cling to my 20s (okay…maybe a little) but I’ve spent enough time dreaming small and talking smaller – it’s time for bold pronouncements and big ideas.

30 Before 30: Travel

1.  Visit Alaska and take a whale-watching cruise with my Mom.
2.  A trip to Hawaii with the girls – perhaps a mini-Macon reunion?
3.  Travel abroad with my little sister, just the two of us.
4.  Visit all of the presidential libraries I haven’t been to yet – Nixon, Reagan, Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Carter, Ford, FDR
5.  Italy with my best friend – she can teach me all about the mosaics and friezes and I can order all the wine.
6.  Take a cruise.  I’ve never taken a cruise and I want to do so badly.  Preferably something that involves Moscow.  I love the idea of being on a boat along the Russian shore.  I am also very strange.
7.  Travel in a hot air balloon.
8.  Take a week off of work and canoe or kayak the entire 5-day bateau trip, from Lynchburg to Richmond.
9.  Splurge on an expensive weekend getaway for myself.  First-class the entire way – no discount bus tickets or cheap hostels or street food.
10.  Visit Disneyworld/land!  My family took a family vacation there without me once – they claim it was their best family trip ever.  I’m still working through that pain…

30 Before 30: Intro

I’ll admit it – I enjoy a good birthday.  I’m not particularly one for having people make a big fuss or being the focus of too much attention (especially in public), but I love that birthdays give you a great excuse to plan big social activities, mix and match your friends, and drink copiously on your friends’ dimes.  Whether having my Macon sisters serenade me with karaoke at the world’s smallest, grungiest dive bar or chanting along with Barra Brava at RFK (Vamos!), I’ve always focused more on the fun side of birthdays and less on the reality.

The reality is that – I’m aging.  I am getting older, year by year, and despite my youthful visage (though a once-beloved uncle noted at Christmas that I was really starting to look my age in the face…), next week, I will be two years from turning 30.  To all the readers who are over 30, yes, yes, I know.  30 is not the end of the world, it’s not the end of my youth, it’s not even the end ticket discounts for most theatres.  But it is symbolic.  I can’t help but think about what I thought “30” would be like when I was a kid – I imagined by that advanced age, I’d easily be a Congresswoman or running CNN or managing the Houston Astros (I had very specific dreams), all while perfectly balancing a very handsome husband (Astronaut Mike Dexter, perhaps?) and 2.5 well-behaved children.

That’s not what my dream for 30 looks like now.  I don’t really believe my life is meant to pursued as a strive for one picture-perfect end point but instead should be made up of more and more amazing little journeys.  So, along that vein, over the next three days I’ll be sharing the 30 adventures I want to have before I turn 30.  I hope by posting them here, you’ll all hold me accountable.

Back To (No) School

Oh, friends.  I know it’s been awhile since I posted.  As always, life happens and I find myself procrastinating on posting for days upon days until suddenly weeks past and I just pretend that no time has passed at all when actually it’s been three months.  Thanks to everyone who was still reading, commenting, and emailing me (postcollegiateblog at gmail, if you’re interested) and I hope to be more committed to this blog as the summer melts into fall.

When you’re growing up, late August/early September is always the back of school time of year.  Being the kind of kid who hating playing outdoors and loved the feeling of freshly sharpened pencils in her hand, I loved the back to school rush.  Picking out new supplies, seeing old friends, and the feeling of temperatures dropping below 90 degrees was always a welcomed feeling for me.

After college, the back to school feeling became something different – it became the “going back to school” feeling.  Every fall since I graduated in 2007, friends have announced their intentions to attend medical school or law school or graduate school or air conditioning repair school.  Going back to school has become everyone’s fall back plan and as you probably know, earlier this year, it became mine.  This past spring, I applied to Expensive DC University’s Business School.  I submitted my application just days after being laid off, wished on a bottle of beer, and hoped for the best.

And I got in!  With a scholarship!  And there was much rejoicing.  Until I realized how much this little excursion back to school was going to cost me.  Even with the scholarship (and extra money cajoled out of the department, because I am supremely gifted at manipulating funds), I’d be looking at taking on a loan debt that just felt outrageous.  It would triple my current debt, limit my ability to make money with my new career (more to come on that!), and would drain my savings.  After a few days of reveling in my acceptance and cursing my ancestors for never leaving me a hefty inheritance to cover my educational needs, I had to say no.

That was six weeks ago.  It hadn’t really started to bug me until now.  Scrolling through Facebook, I see the announcements of various acquaintances getting excited about going back to school and their various graduate school acceptances, and I feel a sickening sense of envy.  I could be stocking up on school supplies, scoping out hot professors online and preparing “I’m so tired of studying” tweets but instead, I’m staring down a fall surprising similar to every other fall I’ve faced for the last five years.  I think the thing that’s really getting under my skin is that if this business school acceptance had come to me when I was 22 or 23, I would have said yes in a heartbeat – financial responsibility and loan burden be damned.

I’m proud that I’m being more financially responsible but it worries me that I’m losing that aspect of my personality where I was willing to take big risks.  I’m not as naive as I used to be and I worry that perhaps with the little wisdom I’ve attained in my post-college years, I’ve lost my sense of risk and adventure.  Maybe I should have jumped into this opportunity and worried about the money later.  Or maybe I made the right choice in keeping my nose to the grindstone to work as much as possible and pay down my current school debt.

Or maybe I’m just obsessing because I feel rudderless during a time of year when someone else used to hand me a schedule for the next eight months and tell me exactly what to expect.

Music Monday: Covering The Band

A new post!  After a summer of silence!  I hope you’re all as excited as I am.  I have a lot to share and a lot of questions I’d love to have feedback on but for today, let’s just rock out to some solid summer jams.

As any casual reader of this blog knows, I love The AV Club – it’s my go-to online destination for quality cultural analysis and just plain fun reading.  One of the greatest things they do during the summer is their AV Club Undercover series, where they have great current bands created stunning, interesting covers of classic songs in a wide variety of genres.  It’s an incredible series and always manages to dominate my musical selections during the summer months.

A few weeks ago, they featured a cover of The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, a personal favorite, covers by a trio of fantastic voices – Glen Hansard from The Swell Season with his pals Lisa Hannigan and John Smith.  It’s one of those songs that has snuck up on me in the past few days – I thought it was enjoyable on first listen but I’m finding myself hitting repeat more and more often as the dog days of summer continue to roll by.  It’s the perfect song for sitting out on your porch on a hot night with nothing but a cold beer and your thoughts – something I’ve been doing a lot of lately.

AV Club Undercover: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Friday Frivolity: The Sound of (Donna) Summer Weekends

It has been a rough month or so for music lovers.  It feels like every other day, my Twitter feed explodes with rumors or, more often than not, sad truths about another icon of American music passing away.  As evidenced by my Music Monday posts, I develop very strong connections to the music in my life and each time another beloved singer is gone, it often hits me harder than I would expect.

As we’re about to embark on another weekend (though with being laid off, the weekdays and weekends seem to blend together), it’s hard not to think about Donna Summer.  Her music was always the sound of summer weekends (no pun intended, for once) and being young and wild and free.  And even though my weekend plans are less “bad girls hit the town” and more “taking advantage of the busy tourist season to make some extra dough“, I’ll be cranking Donna Summer all weekend long.

The Time I Got Laid Off The Day After My Birthday

No use in burying the lede on this blog post, folks.  One of the things I’ve always striven to do with this blog is be honest and forthcoming about how my life has played out since graduating from college and as I have come upon another one of life’s little surprises, it feels right to lay it out here for you.

First things first.  I turned 28 years old last week.  It felt strange.  I usually enjoy birthdays and don’t get too fussy about them.  They’re a great excuse to get a lot of people together and celebrate – in this case, I rounded up about two dozen of my closest friends and we enjoyed a fierce Nats/Phillies baseball game.  I was perfectly content to have people buy me beers and wish me well in the coming year and not dwell on my age.

That is, until Monday night – the night before the actual day.  I don’t know if it was just the exhaustion from coming off a packed weekend or one of those momentary nervous breakdowns that come out of nowhere because someone looks at you wrong, but I snapped.  All of a sudden, I felt the distance between me and my youth (10 years since high graduation!  5 years since college graduation) and the weight of each of the twenty-eight years weighing down on me.  What had I accomplished with that time?  By any factor of success (wealth, health, wisdom, self-fulfillment), did I have any achievements of note?

I tried to shake it off.  A low-key afternoon on my actual birthday – a little museum strolling, sangria with friends, a chance meeting with Jose Andres, and sweet phone calls from my parents – helped to ease the tension and I felt as if perhaps I should save the freak-out for when I actually turned 30.

But apparently, it was the perfect time to freak out.  The very next day, about halfway through my morning work routine, I was called into our department supervisor’s office.  I have written about the end of my previous employment before, but I have to say, this time was different.  You usually have a clue, an inkling, that these things are coming – either because they’re mutual or you can feel it in the air – but this truly took me off-guard.  I knew as soon as I closed the door behind me and the shock was so palpable, I found it hard to catch my breath.

I didn’t cry.  I didn’t argue.  I didn’t fall back on snark or sarcasm, which is really the triumph for me in uncomfortable situations.  I listened plaintively as they explained that there were too many and not enough work.  That they were happy with my performance, that everyone liked me, but it wasn’t a good fit and it wasn’t the right time.  That they could see that I was unhappy.  This last one really stung – because it was true.  I hadn’t been happy in this job, chained behind a desk, with little work to fill my days.  But I had always prided myself on being an outgoing, upbeat person, especially in the workplace.  How could they have known I was wilting inside?

And that was that.  I was truly so stunned, I just grabbed my purse and walked out the door.  I didn’t even clean out my desk – so, you’re welcome, person who gets that desk eventually, for the free granola bars and cough drops and the one fancy pen I brought from home.

I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been a tough couple of days.  Telling my parents was like pulling off a band-aid – it stings initially but it’s better just to do it quickly.  They are loving and supportive, which in some ways makes it worse.  It must not be easy for them, a few years away from retirement, and worrying about an adult child who seems to skip and hop her way through life instead of hunkering down and forging a real career path somewhere.

Honestly, the absolute worst thing about getting laid off is telling people.  The financial worries aren’t great and the lack of daily routine is not well-suited for someone as OCD as myself, but the aspect of this entire ordeal that is so trying is having to let people know.  I know that it’s the right thing to do – your support system of friends and family exist to support you when times get tough but having to volunteer the information that, for not the first time in your life, you’ve been let go is a frustrating endeavor.  Trust me, there’s no easy way to do it.  I am so terrible at it, my roommate completely missed what I had said the first time.

I know there are lessons to be learned here and that, in some ways, this is a relief.  Iwasunhappy at my job and even though I thought I was a spectacular actress, it was obviously clear to others.  I’m learning that I am truly not cut out for a run-of-the-mill desk job and that I have to stop accepting so many administrative tasks just because I’m good at it when I’m better at creating, innovating, and implementing.  I can be proud of the fact that I cultivated strong connections to previous employers and prospective employers, which have already given me a couple of opportunities for the summer and possible beyond.  I have always been happiest when hustling, pursuing projects and working with organizations and people that I’m truly excited to be with, and perhaps I shouldn’t have let my desire to appear more “adult” or “grown-up” to others pull me away from that.

Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself to get through this weird first week of non-working.  All I can say for sure is that right now, from my current “office” aka my kitchen table, it’s a beautiful sunny day and I get to go outside and enjoy it.

So, it could be worse.