The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Readers, as always, I open this post with an apology for my lack of posting.  February has come and is practically gone so quickly (Happy Leap Day!), I can hardly believe my last post was Valentine’s Day.  That said, I had a very disheartening realization yesterday.

My study habits are exactly the same as they were in college.

I know, this is exactly not exactly the most horrible thing that one can realize about themselves, but it’s definitely thrown me into a bit of an existential tailspin.  Here I am, thinking that I have “matured” and “grown” and “learned stuff” but apparently, I am just an older, slightly rounder version of my college self but with a retirement fund this time.

As you may have surmised lately, I’ve been softening my stance on graduate school and am applying for the MBA program here (thanks, employee tuition benefits!)  After an encouraging meeting with graduate admissions, I gathered together my application materials and felt exceptionally confident that they would be duly impressed with my academic performance, diverse resume, glowing references, and sparkling personality.  The only missing piece is an improved GRE score.

Technically, I could just submit my GRE score from the first time I took it.  At the time, it was a perfunctory task – take the GRE, apply to a few graduate schools, put off my admission to work, never think about the GRE again.  My scores weren’t horrible (especially considering my complete lack of preparation) but they’re certainly not great now.  Plus, the new GRE is preferred by the admission department, so I figured a little bit of effort wouldn’t kill me.

Naturally, I assumed that I would order a couple practice books off the Internet (sidenote:  if you want to feel guilty about ordering inexpensive study aides off the Internet, read this Mother Jones article), block off some serious study time, and use social activities as an incentive.  Sadly, my “serious study routine” has devolved into something closer to this:

  • Spend morning debating whether to haul practice books to work with me.  Decide that I much prefer showing off how quickly I can finish the crossword (in pen!) to my anonymous Metro seatmate and that said book would never fit in my cute work purse anyways.  Toss on bed and forget.
  • Consider visiting the library (job perk – favorite library branch only two blocks away) during lunch and getting in some practice questions but decide that strolling through campus and mentally rating the hotness of different graduate students based on building is a better use of my time
  • Late in the afternoon, I will access the online component to my study book and stare at a quadratic equation question for approximately seventeen minutes before I decide to troll Tumblr for gifs from Happy Endings and Cougar Town
  • On the commute home, I will berate myself for neglecting my future and SWEAR UPON PENALTY OF DEATH that I will buckle down after dinner.
  • Drink bottle of wine with dinner.  Leave study book unopened.
  • Repeat cycle daily.  Occasionally replace bottle of wine with two bottles of wine.

Not only am I frustrated with myself over my lack of commitment to studying, but I’m terrified to realize that this is the exact same pattern I found myself in during college.  In college, I would “study” by dragging a book with me to my favorite divey college bar, order a pitcher, and then proceed to do just about anything except look at that book (examples:  play darts, cajole the bartender for jukebox money, play the jukebox, convince other patrons to play the jukebox, cajole the bartender for naked photo hunt money, play naked photo hunt, convince other patrons…you get the idea).  If nothing else, I wish I had developed new and exciting ways to procrastinate something educational!

The one difference seems to be that back then, I knew that I could always pull off the grade I needed or that eventually, even the bartender would force me to focus on the task at hand.  Now, I’m realizing that perhaps my ability to learn (or, technically, re-learn) certain skills like algebra and geometry may have plateaued and I’m going to have to either embrace my math-related mediocrity or really buckle down in the next four weeks in order to earn that proverbial A.  I also know that no one can make me focus but me.

So, readers, tonight when I get home from work, I am swearing that I will buckle down and spend some time factoring and unfactoring some equations.  You’ll hold me to that, right?

And In the End, The Love You Take, Is Equal To The Love You Make

Ah, February 14th – truly one of the most manic, bipolar days of the year.  It seems that every year, as we inch closer to the second week of February, the world becomes split into two distinct, rival camps – the ridiculously over-the-top, scream-it-from-the-rooftops-that-I-am-in LOVE couples and the cold cynics who hate any display of warmth, affection, good manners, or kindness on any day even nearing the 14th.

When it comes to my views on Valentine’s Day, I agree with The Oatmeal – the worst part is not all the reminders that you are alone and unloved (because you aren’t!  I love you, readers!) but the people who feel the need to shout their distaste for love in your face and remind you incessantly that they hate Valentine’s Day.

I get it – for many people, it’s not fun to be reminded that you be missing something in your life that you want or need, but to be honest, I think it’s nice to have a day out of the year where we can be reminded of the power of love.  I like to embrace the universal feeling of love – the kind of love that not only comes from a romantic relationship (or at least the pleasing euphoria of lust) but the love that is borne out of kindness, consideration, and respect for others.

I spend a fair amount of time on this blog complaining – and while I know that I have an amazing circle of family and friends to help me through what is turning out to be a pretty insane decade of my life, I’m not always as vocal or appreciative of how much love I have in my life and how lucky I feel to be surrounded by such a loving group of people.  In that spirit, here are a list of things I love on this Valentine’s Day:

  • I love my mother for coming into town quarterly to help me shut down bars and go shopping for ridiculous fragrances
  • I love my father for email bombing me with on-line petitions and sneaking in the occasional “women’s issue” email because he “knows it’s important to me”
  • I love my baby sister, for always making me laugh both intentionally (parental imitations, mocking me, wordplay) and unintentionally (tipsy tweeting)
  • I love my friends, for indulging in my 1,000 word emails, usually sent in multiple throughout the day, and generally responding with advice like “let him put it in you” or “it’s not too late to run away to the circus”
  • I love that, even in 20 degree weather and with less than a few hours notice, I can get together a fairly impressive trivia team
  • I love my co-workers, especially the ones who keep candy trays on their desks and never even raise an eyebrow if I make a half-dozen visits during the day
  • I love the guy at the Metro Station, who hands out the WaPo Express and never fails to compliment my smile or my outfit or my manners, and manages to always boost my spirits without being creepy
  • I love the doctors I work for, who dedicate every minute of the day to caring for others, to putting their needs second always to the needs of the patients, and for still managing to be friendly and warm to the staff
  • I love how nice people in the District can actually be, especially if you flash them a smile
  • I love that I have a little corner of the Internet to write and muse and complain and be silly and that you guys actually come here and read it and write me and make me feel less alone

Sure, there are things I would probably love to be able to list (I’d love having no financial woes, I’d love to help make my friend’s troubles disappear, I’d love to be able to tell my heart exactly what to feel) but all things considered, there is a lot of love in my world – and hopefully in yours!

Happy Valentine’s/Anna Howard Shaw Day!

Post-script:  Speaking of love, I love love love our fearless post-collegiate for this week!  Be sure to check back in the next day or two for our in-depth interview – it’s going to be a great one!

Music Monday: Whitney Houston

There’s no question who is dominating my playlist this week – in light of the sad news of her passing, Whitney Houston’s infectious enthusiasm and stunning vocal power have been on repeat on my iPod today.

Like most girls my age,  I learned a lot about love and heartbreak from the music of Whitney Houston and in my patriotically-inclined household, her gorgeous rendition of the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl was required listening.  The Internet is definitely full of beautifully written tributes and as the Grammys demonstrated last night, no one can quite capture the magic of her voice, but on this morning, as I find myself needing inspiration, I’m just cranking up Whitney and letting myself go.

Pippin: The Ultimate PostCollegiate Musical?

It will likely come as no surprise to you all that I was not your typical teenager.  I’ve found that most of my cultural influences were culled from digging through my parent’s cassette collections or buying boxes of VHS tapes from yard sales or books I found in thrift stores than anything my peers were talking about.  This resulted in the kind of 12 year old who read a biography on Bob Fosse (which really was a bit racy for a pre-teen) and, naturally, became a little bit obsessed with the musical, Pippin

For those who are not familiar with the award-winning ’72 musical [obviously, major SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this post as I am about to go into much detail regarding the plot], it follows the tale of a young man (the titular Pippin) on a quest to lead an extraordinary life.   It’s loosely based on real life hunchback, Pepin the Hunchback, and his father, Charlemagne and the plot to overtake the thrown.  But what the musical is actually about is exactly what each of us struggles with after graduation – what now?

The musical, which is presented in an ah-maz-ing framing device of a traveling theatre troupe originally lead by the flawless Ben Vereen, opens with our introduction to Pippin, who immediately promises a group of scholars he will find a place where his “spirit can run free” (hello, college graduation day much?)

After this “graduation”, Pippin returns home (step one:  move back with your parents) to a father who doesn’t see the value in over-education and encourages his son to follow in his career footsteps – specifically, the military.  Despite his father’s assertions that “War is a science” and should appeal to his brainy boy, it turns out that Pippin isn’t cut out for guts and glory and flees.  Sounds like someone had their first job-quitting experience!

Having discovered he’s not ready for a cut-throat world (puns!), he retreats to his grandmother’s country estate to try some simple living.  I enjoy this immensely not only because I moved in with my grandmother during college and retreated to a country-living setting myself, but also because this introduces one of the best numbers in the musical, Simple Joys. 

The genius of a lyrical line like “his life seemed purposeless and flat, aren’t you glad you don’t feel like that?” seems tailor-made for those settling into mid-twenties malaise.

Of course, simple joys aren’t exactly fulfilling – after several weeks of gluttonous indulgence and meaningless sexual encounters (oh, hey, 25 year old me says hi!), Pippin allows himself to be talked into something that involves taking action – starting a revolution.  They might as well call the next series of scenes Occupy Charlemagne, because Pippin organizes an uprising against his own father, slays him (don’t worry – he comes back to life!), realizes that it’s impossible to rule the masses in a purely democratic fashion, and swiftly drops the movement.

To make sure you’re with me so far, Pippin had major ambitions for himself that have thus far fallen by the wayside, finds himself overeducated for work when he tries to get into the family business, runs away to the country, gets tired of bumming and screwing around, and dabbles in a little progressive politics.  Seriously, a casual viewer may start to think this was actually written in 2012 instead of 1972 – perhaps Stephen Schwartz had a crystal ball?

And we’re back in!  Pippin tries his hand at art (failure), religion (failure), and collapses on the floor in defeat (this is basically me after work every day).  He’s discovered by the lovely widow Catherine (originated on Broadway by the incomparable Jill Clayburgh, R.I.P.) who brings him back to her humble farm.  He initially feels stifled by the seemingly boring tasks and unexciting surroundings, busting out into a song that, in my opinion, perfectly encapsulates the Millennial Generation:

Trust me, you will be singing this in your shower every time you apply for a dream job that you don’t get or you feel frustrated with the day-to-day grind or just about every day because it has serious ear worm quality (and it totally reminds me of the pitch-perfect SNL sketch a couple weeks ago.)  Turning back to Pippin, he naturally falls in love with life on the farm (and the practically-perfect Catherine) but once the Lead Player promises eternal glory, he leaves it all behind.

The musical ends with the Lead Player encouraging Pippin to complete one perfect act (aptly named The Finale) – setting himself on fire for the amusement of the players and the audience!  Yeah, the show does get a little dark at the end, with the cast pushing the lead actor towards suicide.  Luckily, Pippin realizes that if he’s never tied down to something, he may never actually be free and chooses to reject his extraordinary, undiscovered purpose for a comfortable life with Catherine and her son.  Conclusion?  Settling down may be mundane and boring but one can find fulfillment in an ordinary life.

Okay, so maybe the ending isn’t EXACTLY the ending I see for myself, but the trajectory of Pippin’s journey shares so many similarities with my own and that of my peers, that I am willing to unequivocally state that Pippin is the official musical of the postcollegiate life experience – SUCK IT, AVENUE Q

Important Post-Script:  All YouTube clips embedded and linked to are from the 1981 film version, starring William Katt, sporting the most beautiful head of blonde curly hair, and Ben Vereen reprising his Tony Award-winning role of Lead Player.  It is missing several sections of the original work, but it’s still worth watching if you’re into this kind of thing – and you totally are, don’t even pretend like you’re not.  I can see you.

Friday Frivolity: Dining Out With The Oatmeal

Thank you based god, it’s finally the weekend!  MPC (Mama PostCollegiate) is in town for a few days, so I’m looking forward to a couple free dinners and maybe a new pair shoes (plus, like, bonding and talking and whatever).  I hope you all have an opportunity to take advantage of the kindness of another this weekend!

Last night, as MPC arrived in town, I organized a dutch treat dinner of a few ladies who like eating, drinking, and talking about me (my top three pursuits!)  I thought that dutch treat would be simple but no.  Even amongst a half-dozen or so grown adults, splitting the check is akin to talking sense to the EVP of Komen (timely!)  Luckily, a friend sent me this great comic from the Oatmeal that perfectly illustrates why check-splitting skills should be taught in school

Have a great weekend!

The First Years Out

As long-time readers know, I was let go from a job that started out great but turned out to be one of the most challenging experiences of my young, inexperienced life.  I learned a lot of lessons from those three years but one of the most important lessons learned is that I will never be as erudite or witty as my co-worker/friend/partner-in-crime-and-drinking Kate.

Kate is just one of those all around awesome people, who (conveniently for me), wrote a great blog post last spring about the stages of post-collegiate life (click it!  read it!  love it!)*  I love this post because it showcases not only Kate’s trademark levity but also covers some serious ground.  According to Kate, here is what will happen after you graduate**:

  • You will move back home – This was only not true for me because I was very comfortable with being exceptionally poor.  Like, skipping meals to buy $2 PBRs at bars where the bartenders would conveniently forget I had more than one poor.
  • You will have a terrible job – Sorry, folks.  This is a non-negotiable.  You will have a terrible job, be terribly underpaid, and probably hate yourself a little bit.  And as for crying at your desk?  That happens to the best of us.  Embrace it.
  • You will get a pet – Kate got a dog.  I prefer minions.  Either way, you’ll need something to love you unconditionally when everything feels like it’s going wrong.
  • You will go to graduate school – Let’s be honest, all of y’all are in graduate school or already have that secondary degree or are in the midst of applying.  Even I can’t hold out forever…
  • You will be jealous of your peers’ lives – Whether it’s job envy or a desperate yearning to afford the vacations that everyone else seems to take, you will hate Facebook and it’s annoying window into the wonderful lives of others.  The good news is that in a few years, the divorces and epic burn-outs of your peers will start replacing all this good news, so at least you can revel in a little schadenfreude.
  • You will have so much fun – Amen, sister friend.  Those first three years out were hard (and it’s not gotten that much easier) but the amount of fun you have barely scraping by with great friends to commiserate with cannot be overstated.  And as long as you remember to have fun, everything seems to work itself out eventually.

*This post was originally published on the George Washington University Honors Program blog.  Even if you’re not a GW student (or an honors student), they have a lot of great resources!

**As a disclaimer, I agree with the author that these stages only apply to poor, pathetic humanities majors.  Engineers and science nerds, congratulations on your decent salaries and job security!