Friday Frivolity

Am I having a Quarterlife Crisis?
Take the quiz and find out!

1. You make an impulse purchase. It’s
a) gum.
b) a Marc Jacobs dress that you can’t afford.
c) your fifth beer on a Monday night.

2. You stop dead in the street and can’t breathe. Panic attack. You deal by
a) going home and taking a bath.
b) sending an angsty Tweet from your iPhone.
c) registering for a dating website and marrying the first person you meet.

3. You wake up in the morning and dread going to work. You
a) start scouring for a better job.
b) call in sick for the second day in a row and watch back-to-back episodes of Saved By The Bell.
c) quit your job and apply online to seven different graduate programs.

4. You take up a new hobby. It’s
a) fostering cats.
b) Second Life.
c) unprotected sex with strangers, because having a baby might give your life some structure and purpose.

5. You step on something odd as you come in your front door. It’s
a) water, because you just cleaned the floors.
b) a dust bunny, because you don’t vacuum.
c) a cockroach, a pile of unopened bills, and a $300 vintage comic book you ordered on eBay when you were drunk last week.

6. You’re hanging out with friends. Everyone is worried about
a) the calories in beer and nachos.
b) their tangled dating lives.
c) turning 30 and moving back into their parents’ basement.

7. You rent a movie. It’s
a) Helvetica, a documentary about a font.
b) The Last Kiss, where Zach Braff gets engaged and then fucks it up.
c) A triple bill of Fight Club, Withnail & I and Betty Blue.

8. You wake up to a furious beeping sound. It’s
a) 8am.
b) 9am, and you’re late for work because you keep hitting snooze.
c) 3pm, and it’s your smoke alarm.

9. The two words that best describe how you see the future are
a) “limitless possibility.”
b) “option paralysis.”
c) “total desperation.”

Mostly a): Nothing is wrong with you. Except that being this well-adjusted is slightly abnormal.
Mostly b): You’re not in crisis, yet, but you’re starting to show some signs. Time to think about a five-year plan.
Mostly c): You’re in full-blown Quarterlife Crisis–mode. Immediately get to a shrink, and hang tight: the storm will eventually pass.

Thanks to EyeWeekly for the quiz!  I scored mostly B’s – how did you do?


Your Words: How I Quit My Job That One Time

When I was 27, I had been working at a big media company for three years, focusing on what was then called “online community” and is now known as “social media” because they figured out that “online community” didn’t make any money.  I had my own office on a very high floor.  I had a generous travel and entertainment budget (the mid-90s were awesome) [Ed. note:  Truly unfair for those of us still toiling away at secondary education during such a time.]  I hired some fantastic people.  I had a great relationship with the head of the online division, who told me the company would pay for me to get my MBA.

The leadership of the company changed.  We all got reorganized.  I was dispatched to a new magazine for teens, supposedly working on its online content but really just sending mildly pornographic IMs back and forth with my fellow reorg victim while we waited for something to happen.  The head of the online division wouldn’t return my calls and was never available to meet with me.  I got a new boss, one who didn’t delegate anything and didn’t invite me to meetings and didn’t copy me on status reports: all things that sound trivial, but in a workplace, that kind of behavior can make someone invisible.

I spent two months doing nothing all day, then going home to cry to my roommate.  I didn’t start looking for a new job because obviously I wasn’t the kind of person anyone would want to hire — if I were, then why would the company I’d worked so hard for be freezing me out?  I ate a lot of cheese and drank a lot of beer.

And then one day in January, sitting at my desk in the mostly-empty bullpen, I IMed my fellow reorg victim: I need to get out of here.

Lunch? he sent back.

No, I mean I need to GET OUT.

I got up, walked over to my boss’s desk, waited for her to acknowledge that I was standing there, and said: I don’t think this is working out.  Do you want me to work through my notice period?

Honestly, she looked at me as though she’d never seen me before. After a minute she said no, and I got my bag and walked out.

I spent a week sleeping till ten, pretty much paralyzed with fear.  My roommate, who hated HIS job, told me to shut up and enjoy my freedom while it lasted; he had a point.  The next week I borrowed a car and went on a solo road trip.  The third week I started making some calls to industry acquaintances, some of whom believed I was actually employable.  I was shocked.  The fourth week I got a new job — one that was lucrative and ended up eating my soul, but was a hugely valuable experience anyway.  I switched careers eventually, and then took a few years off to have babies.  I’m not at all sure what I’ll do when I go back to work.  But the benefit of having had a couple of agonizing work experiences is that I know now that nothing is permanent, no job or career should define me, and if I keep an open mind and can psych myself up enough to take some risks, there are a lot of opportunities out there.  Also, I shouldn’t have eaten so much cheese.

Many thanks to the anonymous reader who submitted this real life tale!  Want to share your experience?  Drop us at email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom].  Cheese references not required but encouraged.

Anti-Schooling Valedictorian Speech

I did not want to attend my own high school graduation.  By the time graduation rolled around, I had my eye on summer vacations and heading 1,500 miles away to college and didn’t really buy into the pomp and circumstance of a 3-hour long spectacle.  Naturally, my parents made my graduation party contingent on walking at graduation.  Very clever, parental units, well-played.

Of course, I’m not the only graduate to be a little cynical about the exercise.  One valedictorian, however, took it to the next level at her 2010 graduation ceremony by using her speech as a platform for criticizing the American public school system and education in our country as a whole.  [To read the address in its entirety, click here.]

Erica Goldson, valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School in New York, talks about her disillusionment with our focus on accomplishing goals as opposed to learning.  She astutely points out that, for many teenagers, the only reason to work at school at all is to do enough to get out.  However, this is not a speech about slackers or underachievers – she struck at the very heart of the kind of student I was in high school:

I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

I think so many of us, raised in “gifted” programs and taking advantage of magnet & charter school programs, feel this way.  The goal is getting good grades, doing well academically, gaining admission to a good college – but then what?  Even throughout college, the focus on having a stellar GPA and solid package [to gain admission to graduate school?  find that perfect job?] takes precedence over learning for discovery’s sake.

I love how she has the nerve to call out the system and remind her friends, parents, and teachers that there should be more to life than earning degrees, getting jobs, making money, and being consumers.  She calls for passion – oh that word – over meaningless achievement, which how I sometimes view my own accomplishments (high school degree, college degree, resume lines, etc.)

What I respect about Erica’s speech is that she issues a challenge that is unusual for a commencement speech – instead of the insipid advice usually given, she challenges her classmates to challenge the system.  In a direct opposition of the “generation me” stereotype, she reminds her peers that there are more to come through the system after them and they have a responsibility to make it better for the future.

I say kudos to you, Erica, for a wonderful graduation speech – a challenge to the system, an expression of real fear and doubt which is remarkable for a young person, and a call to arms to make change.

Profiles in Post-Collegiate Courage: Daniel Wanke

Calling courageous post-collegiates! For the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring interviews with interesting post-collegiates who will be sharing some of their experiences and offer some advice.   Want to nominate someone to be featured (including yourself)?  Email postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]

Washington, DC has always been a city that calls to post-collegiates.  Where better to toil away as an intern or aide as you network, strategize, and prepare your own eventual public office run?  Take one look at the demographics of the Obama White House staff and you’ll see that being an under-30 Washingtonian doesn’t always mean fetching coffee!  While Daniel Wanke isn’t likely to employed by a Democrat any time soon, he is toiling away in the capitol city and agreed to answer some questions about life in the political fast lane.


Daniel, standing outside the West Wing in 2006, the year when he first came to DC as an intern

Let’s start this off easy.  Who is Daniel Wanke?

I’m originally from a small town in southern Wisconsin where I grew up on a farm.  I’m a life-long nerd, amateur chef, and a musician.  Before deciding on a career in law and politics, I actually was on track with a career in science and was interested in either biochemistry or biology as a college major.  I had also been in the advanced English classes and did well in history, government and foreign languages.  I’d also spent years studying American history as a member of the Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.), [Ed.note – This is how Daniel and I met!] which is a youth organization for descendants of patriots in the War for Independence.

One day while I was looking at colleges, I realized that I wasn’t terribly interested in spending the rest of my life in a lab. I thought about what I was good at and decided to be a pre-law student instead with a major in political science.

As noted, I call myself a musician.  I did consider music school, but I had my concerns–career opportunities, etc.  Just prior to my senior year in high school, I discovered my singing voice.  I’d been in choirs, but was not anything remarkable.  Then it developed all of a sudden after I went to a music camp at Concordia University Chicago, which I had attended to play in the orchestra.  Ultimately, I stuck to my plan to be a pre-law student.  It was a tough decision to not go to music school. I knew that if I didn’t make it as a performer, I’d end up a music teacher, and I didn’t want to do that.  I kept up with my music through various choirs and have done a number of solo performances over the last 9 years since I discovered my voice.

I had picked Purdue University initially due to my science background. I fell in love with the place at first sight and for a variety of reasons I needed a fresh start in a new place. Purdue offered exactly that. Although it is primarily known as an engineering school, I found their liberal arts programs to be quite strong. I never regretted not going to a school more focused on arts programs. Purdue was fully supportive of my studies and I enjoyed having to justify them to the engineers. I became very active on the College Republicans at Purdue where I volunteered for a number of political campaigns, took part in several on campus events, developed my writing on hot topics and got plugged into a number of debates. I had no idea at the time that it was leading to a career in Washington.

Currently, I work in government relations for a trade association for commercial insurance companies that is located in Washington, D.C. I work on legislation and regulations impacting the association’s members, performing research, writing summaries and assisting in lobbying and public affairs campaigns at the state and federal level.

On your graduation day from Purdue, what your life plan at that moment?

My initial plan was to return to Wisconsin, find a job, and work for a couple of years while I prepared to go to law school.  I had finished my degree in three years, which left me reluctant to push forward with more schooling and I had not had a chance to take the LSAT during college.  I had planned to take it during that time and explore schools, but a job in Wisconsin that was suitable for me never came about.

You graduated in 2005.  Since then, what things have you pursued that were not part of that initial plan.

As I had hinted at earlier, I never expected to have a career in Washington at this point in my life. I’d always thought it was possible since I wanted to stay involved in politics.  Everything about my life since graduating college has been completely unplanned and unexpected.  Certainly once I got to Washington, I began doing things with a purpose like networking, making friends and career choices, but that I am doing any of this at all right now was at first a complete surprise.

Photographic evidence of Daniel's Republican status - and yes, that's the real Ann Coulter, not a wax figure

What passions or projects have you wanted to pursue but haven’t yet?  Why?

I’ve wanted to make use of my French that I studied for so long, but my current job doesn’t provide that opportunity.  I’d also like to study other languages.  I hope that at some point I am able to do that and I plan to seek out opportunities allowing me to do so.

What have been the greatest challenges in your life since college?

Balancing a very demanding job against having my own life and interests has been a huge challenge.  As a working “adult” (if I must be called that), being at the office all day doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things.  It came to a point this year where I had to quit all of my activities outside of work with the exception of music.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t find the time to do some of them here and there, but I genuinely have needed a break so that I could refocus and reevaluate my capabilities.

More challenging still has been living far away from my family.  I love my work, friends and living in D.C., but it’s hard being away from the home team. I don’t get to see my nephews nearly as much as I’d like to, and there’s the occasional guilt-laden commentary from my mom about finding work closer to home. Despite these challenges though, I doubt I’ll leave D.C. any time soon. I really love the area and the opportunities available.

As noted before, I am a big believer in random happenstance.  Do you have any examples of such occurences in your post-collegiate life?

Random happenstance is exactly how I ended up in Washington.  One day in December 2005, I was watching Fox News with my mom. [Ed. note: This blog does not endorse the viewing of Fox News.]  They had on a staffer from Young America’s Foundation to discuss some political issues.  I don’t remember what they were talking about, but I suddenly realized I had worked with them during college.  I was still looking for a job at this point, four months after graduating.  I’d heard the classic catch-22 phrase over and over in job interviews, “What’s your experience?”  The answer for someone who just graduated from college is never easy.  At this point I had turned to internship opportunities so that I could gain said experience.  I looked into the Foundation’s internship program and gave them a call.  I was told that they already were in their final decisionmaking process, but that they would interview me anyway.  So a day later, I did the phone interview and submitted the application package.  A couple of days later, I got a phone call with an internship offer.  I could hardly believe I had beaten all of their other candidates, but apparently I had. This was December 2005 and the internship started in January. So, on four weeks notice I packed up the bare essentials for this whirlwind opportunity and came out to  Northern Virginia to work. Towards the end of my internship, I started going on job interviews and about a month after I left the Foundation, I was offered my current job, where I have worked for four years.  None of this was planned as I noted, I didn’t come from a family with connections in politics and I didn’t spend years building towards a career in D.C.  It just happened.

If you could go back and tell yourself anything on your graduation day, what would you say?

I’m really not sure what I would say since so much of what has happened since then that I didn’t plan, although it’s worked out pretty well. I’d probably be at risk of copping out and saying something cheesy like “expect the unexpected.” But if I had the chance to say something to me that day I’d try and make myself understand how to face challenging times. I’d survived a lot up to that point, but I think I have a better perspective on it now than I did then and I’ve seen more challenges over that past few years. I think I’d tell myself to remember to breathe during the difficult times. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in one’s trials that something so simple as breathing becomes a task on life’s to-do list. And I don’t just mean the physical act of inhaling and exhaling. Obviously, that’s controlled by the part of the brain in charge of things we do automatically like our heart beat. I mean that one has to remember to breathe in the mental and spiritual sense. In the midst of a difficult time, it’s so easy to lose that rhythm on which each of us operates–that part that defines who we are. So, I guess I’d want myself to remember that and to take time to rediscover breathing when life throws us off the course we are on and to remember that we might not be meant to retake that course at all.

Daniel and I have been friends for 8 years and I never miss an opportunity to come to DC for a visit!

Many thanks to Dan for being our first male post-collegiate!  Didn’t get enough?  You can follow him on Twitter or feel free to leave additional questions for Dan in the comments section!

Music Monday: Telekinesis

Every Monday or so, I’ll share a music suggestion from a reader.  Send us the songs that inspire you, get you motivated, help you get through the day, or put a smile on your face.  You can leave it in the comments, tweet it, or email us at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]

Coast of Carolina by Telekinesis – submitted (via Facebook) by Mary

Coast of Carolina by Telekinesis!

Telekinesis, an indie rock band out of Seattle, has a great sound that is undeniably poppy and delicious.  There are buzzy guitar stomps and lyrical hooks that remind you have great indie pop can be.  This particular song seems written for the expressed purpose of pumping you up.

Looking for a place to go
Keep on moving fast and slow
As the crowds follow my path
I know this is going to last

Join the Conversation!

A hearty thank you to everyone who continues to read this blog, send me great ideas for posts, and share their personal experiences in the comments.  It’s great to see a community blossoming here!

In that spirit, I want to encourage those of you faithful readers who haven’t jumped in yet to get commenting!  Consider checking out one of these popular posts and joining the conversation:

  • Why I’m Not in Graduate School – Tell us whether you are or aren’t in graduate school, what led you there, and what you’re hoping to get out of that experience
  • I Had a Job.  Now I Don’t – Have you ever lost a job?  Made a career change?  Share your post-employment emotions and suggest ways for others to cope with such an event
  • I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Means – How do you feel about the quarterlife crisis?  Is it an aptly-named event that is true for most twentysomethings?  Or is it a media creation that stifles young professionals on the brink of success?
  • A Lack of Passion – I’ve confessed to not knowing my passion.  Do you feel the same way?  What’s yours and how are you pursuing it?

I love hearing your thoughts and love the conversations that are coming out of the comments, so jump in now!