Hello, From the Other Side…of 30

Hey blog readers!

It’s been six years since my last post.  That seems insane to me and yet reading through some of the old entries, it’s amazing how much of what I’d written about still rings true – for myself but also for countless young people I meet who are still struggling with the post-college world.

I had considered taking this blog down a few times over the last couple of years but have decided to keep it up for now.  With the rise of the millennial generation and the crazy reality of life in the U.S. in the last two years, I think there’s still a lot of content here that might be useful for readers who stumble along.

There’s a good chance I’ll have a podcast coming along later this year that will be the spiritual successor of this blog and if so, I’ll be sure to share it here.  For now, I’ll leave up my very real tales of being fired, trudging through jobs I hated, being poor, and binging Netflix before streaming existed (OMG, old people, amirite?) and hope it brings some comfort to others going through the same-ish things.

Lots of love,

Your Postcollegiate Pal

P.S. Some things that have happened since my last post – I found a new career (woohoo!), occasionally pop up on basic cable TV, got married (curveball!), traveled to more than a dozen countries, and have possibly found the skincare routine that works perfectly for me.  Y’all, it does get a little easier in your 30s.

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Profiles in Post-Collegiate Courage: Ashley Blom

The Internet is a great place – it allows you to shop for shoes from your desk at work, find gifs from your favorite TV shows just moments after they air, and they can bring you together with like-minded peers to become Interweb besties.  That’s how I feel about Ashley.  She’s the brainchild behind Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine and is smart, witty, and clever in the kitchen.  She was nice enough to share a little bit about her story, her blog, and her secrets (she’s a heterochrome!)

The lovely Ashley Blom

As is the custom here, please tell the readers a little bit about yourself!

My name is Ashley Blom and I have lived in Massachusetts my entire life. I’ve always had a passion for writing, which was jump started at age 6 when I won a children’s fiction contest sponsored by Jane Yolen, an author who lived in my hometown. As all little kids are wont to do, I immediately assumed I was the best writer in the history of the universe and I was immediately hooked. Though I’ve gotten a bit more humble in my later years, that initial passion of “this is what I DO!” has always stuck. Writing will always be a part of my life in some shape or form.

I come from a very small farming town–I graduated with only 28 kids in my public high school class. I chose to go to Emerson College to major in Writing, Literature, and Publishing because it was the one school that had the exact major that I wanted. I wanted a major with creativity, literature, more of my own voice, so creative writing was what I decided to focus on in college, with publishing classes supplementing my education so that I could have hope of finding a “real” job. The big city was a big change from my hometown, but one I embraced with my whole heart. I loved my college experience, to be surrounded by other creative minds was just a paradise for me. The fast pace of the city felt more like home than the endless farm lands of Western Massachusetts ever did. I truly knew I was a city mouse who had somehow grown up as a country mouse by sheer accident.

I’ve always loved anything creative. Writing is my first passion, but acting and singing are a close second. I often act in community theater and I know it will always be a part of my life in some form or another. I also love artistic things and am always trying to find new outlets to showcase my creativity. More recently I’ve been using my food blog as a way to practice photography techniques, since this is yet another creative outlet I want to explore.

College was also where I developed my love of travel (I’ve made the effort to see two new cities each year as a result). I spent a semester in The Netherlands, living in an old castle with 80 other students. This was in 2007, and at the same time that I had this amazing experience I also had a terrible one–my father died. He was my best friend and I was totally not ready for it. I had to take a plane home by myself, attend the funeral, and then since the trip was already paid for I returned to finish my semester. I think these two events were the most life changing things I’ve ever been through, and they’ve inspired a lot of my writing and life decisions ever since.

Currently I am living with my mom and stepdad and working as a Marketing Assistant 45 minutes away. The drive is terrible, but I love my job. After a terrible apartment search experience I’ve decided to continue to live at home until I have enough money to move to California–which hopefully will be soon!

It sounds like you’ve always been tuned into your passions.  What was your initial life plan after college?

After college, I saw myself working at a publishing house in New York City–living with other Emerson alums and working my way up the career ladder to be an editor while in my free time penning my first novel or collection of short stories. Today, I am living at home, working in marketing for an energy company, and dreaming of the day I can escape to some big city again. I didn’t expect my loan repayments to be this high every month, and it’s keeping me from getting too far from my safety net. I see friends who are getting financial support and I get utterly green with envy that I have to do it all myself. I feel like my finances are keeping me from my dreams and I get bitter. But I have realized that so many other people are in my same exact position, and I feel better.

I recently had a “quarter-life-crisis” where I decided I needed to stop being scared and pull myself up onto my feet and make my dreams come true on my own. So I’ve really buckled down and started to save my money. I traveled to California last year and fell in love with it, so LA is my goal. NYC will come later, since I know it’ll be easy to stay there once I’m established, and I really want to live somewhere different than the East Coast for at least a part of my life. I am halfway to where I want to be savings-wise and am trying to work up the nerve to actually make such a dramatic move.

You’re lucky to have a job that’s at least mildly related to your interests but you also blog as well.  What benefits have you derived, personally and professionally, from blogging?

I’ve been blogging in some capacity since age ten. My blogs have never been overly popular or gained thousands of hits, but I have a little cluster of loyal commenters that make me smile, and that’s enough for me right now. I love cooking, and writing, and since my current job doesn’t really let me do either in a professional environment, it’s a great way to keep my foot in the door. My hope for the blog is that it will be profitable someday, but at the very least I have a fun accounting of my recipe triumphs and failures and it’s a great and useful hobby.

My passion for food started with my internship at the Lisa Ekus Group. She’s a cookbook publicist (among many other things!) and I loved my time working for her. She still sends me cookbooks to review on my blog! I study her clients and take notes on what they do and how they’ve made cooking into a career. I’m finding that I probably could never have the patience or skill to produce my own cookbook, but I would love to be in the food publishing business in some way. Working for Lisa really helped me come to that conclusion and figure out what my “dream job” would be.

Post-college cuisine can be a challenge – we have limited time, money, and talents for good meals.  What are some tips for young struggling chefs?

In the kitchen with Quarterlife Cuisine

Use your weekends to cook and shop for the week. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is so nice to come home and have a ready-prepared meal waiting for you in the freezer if you just do not have time or energy to whip something up from scratch. When I lived in my own apartment I would make big pots of Hamburger Soup and freeze them in portion-sized bags for easy eating. Or I’d make salads on Sunday in little containers and eat them for lunch through the week–just don’t add dressing until you’re ready to serve them, otherwise everything turns to mush. I learned that the hard way!

Also, learn substitutions for hard-to-find products. One of my new favorite substitutions is for baking powder, something I never seem to have on hand. You use 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/4 tsp baking soda in place of 1/2 of your liquid in the recipe (and if you don’t have buttermilk, you just mix whole milk with vinegar, ta-daa! Buttermilk!) and they come out just fine. There are whole books dedicated to substitutions, but a simple Google search will usually suffice.

Also, sales are your friend. I find myself checking circulars and coupon-cutting like an old lady sometimes but it really helps! Buy fresh produce when you can, and save a few bucks by not buying it pre-prepared (chopped, peeled, etc) and do it yourself. Buy in bulk whenever you can for non-perishables like rice, beans, and frozen meat. The cost up front might seem like more, but it’ll last longer.

Can you share some easy, go-to recipes that are sure to help post-collegiates dazzle their friends and family?

Sure! Here are some of my favorites!

Spaghetti Carbonara – This is my absolute go-to for a quick meal that seems fancy

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles – This is a complicated-sounding dish that is really very easy to do

Chicken Cacciatore – This is another recipe that has lots of ingredients, but they’re generally cheap and easy to find–plus you get to drink all the leftover wine you don’t use!

Crowd Pleasing Taco Dip – My go-to party dip. People love it!

Turkey Ravioli – This is the best thing I’ve ever made. The recipe calls for wonton wrappers in place of making ravioli from scratch, which I think is pure genius and something I’ve definitely experimented with in recipes since.

Summer Sangria – And finally, what good gathering is complete without a punch bowl? Sangria is so easy to make and definitely does not break the bank.

Being a Millennial often means living your life online.  What’s your experience been with blogging?  Do you have positive/negative experiences you’d like to share?

I’ve had plenty of good experiences and friendships result from my blogs, but also my fair share of trolling. Most recently, I had a horrible experience where a blog I frequent that tends to discuss sexuality and women’s reproductive rights was targeted by either a person or group who wanted to shut the site down. Since the blog owner wasn’t about to shut down any time soon, the troll/s decided to go after her commenters–of which I was one of them. Somehow they got my personal information (full name, age, college, where I worked) and paraded it around the internet with claims about what a “whore” I am. They tried to attack my employer’s Facebook page and they took some of my pictures from my flickr account and put hateful things in Impact font over my face. All because I left a comment on a somewhat feminist blog that they didn’t agree with. Suddenly my Google results were tarnished. I went into hiding on the internet and was too scared to do anything that would give the trolls more things to throw at me.

After about six months I was itching to blog again. I remembered what my friend, a schoolteacher, had told her class during an internet safety lesson: “Nobody cares what other people write about you on the internet–they care about what YOU write about YOURSELF.” By locking down and shutting down my entire internet presence, the trolls’ hateful messages were the only thing left about me when you searched for my name. That’s when I began to rebuild my online presence. Due to the right of free speech I can’t get those hateful words taken down without a lawyer, an expensive process I can’t afford right now, but I can put positive, truthful things about my character back on the web.

I really appreciate you sharing that with our readers.  I think we take Internet safety for granted too often.  If you could go back to graduation day and give yourself advice, what would it be?

Perhaps I’d tell myself to stay in Boston for another year, before my loans kicked in. Try to get in with a publishing house out there. Don’t let boyfriends interfere with my life plans. Travel just a little more before I have to stick to a strict budget, and keep in better touch with friends from college. Cook more, write more, while there’s still time.

Hoping Ashley can make the move to California soon!

Many, many thanks to Ashley for agreeing to be featured and sharing so much with the blog.  Please be sure to check out the recipes listed above and read her blog!  As always, you can leave questions for Ashley in the comments section as well!

Friday Frivolity: My Last $100

It’s Friiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiidaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!  (Hey, sometimes I like to pretend I’m Oprah.)  Very excited for the weekend to be here especially because the butter on our Easter table spread this Sunday will be in the shapes of little lambs and the moment someone cuts into it, I’m going to make jokes about sacrificial lambs for the rest of the day.

For a little bit of frivolity on this fine almost-holiday Friday, I was inspired by a great new website, The Billfold.  Brought to you by the good people behind The Awl, Splitsider, and Hairpin (all worthy reads in their own right), Billfold is an irreverently fun and actually useful site about money and finance.  They didn’t even pay me to say that!  I actually think that thought on my own!  One cool feature on The Billfold is the series “My Last $100” where the author details the last one hundred dollars they’ve spent.  So, I thought I’d give you all a little peek into my finances – prepare to be…underwhelmed (spoiler alert:  it’s mostly food and/or beer-related!)

Note:  For the sake of ease and sparing you from reading about every $0.75 Diet Coke and $2.00 cup of oatmeal I bought this week, this only lists purchases over $5.00 and doesn’t include last night’s Girls Night, because that is off-limits for blog talk (as I foreswore on shoes and you cannot welch on that business).

$10 – DC Beer Week button – put your hands in the air for supporting local beer, what what!

$22 – Pitcher of beer, nachos, and french fries for a pre-21 Jump Street best friend movie matinee.  Mom(s), please don’t judge us.

$18 – Grocery trip to Wegmans – all off the cold/hot bar to stock my lunches for the last few days.  A conscious effort was made to include vegetables, to counter the effects of purchases made the day before this

$25 – H Street Country Club – Shrimp fajitas, a single margarita, and a couple of Dos Equis Ambers – weird DC-themed mini-golf on second floor of the bar was free with entree purchase!

$18Little Miss Whiskey’s – Several beers selected from the beloved Beer Book.

$7 – Au Pon Bain – I attempted to order myself a “healthy” lunch sandwich (veggies!  no cheese!  no aioli!  lots of veggies!) but *true story alert*, there were apparently two Rebeccas ordering lunch that day because when I returned to my desk, there was a turkey, brie, and cranberry chutney sandwich in the bag.  I could have gone back and swapped out for my 400-calorie-veggie-delight but instead, I ate that brie-swaddled goodness and did not look back.  It was a beautiful moment.

Have a great weekend and remember to spend responsibly!

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!

Is It Time To Quit Your Job?

As many of your readers know, I’m coming up on one year at my current job.  Prior to that, I was fired (twice!) and juggling a mix of funemployment, hustlin’, and part-time laboring.  While there have been good days and bad days in either situation, I have felt so fortunate to be gainfully employed in the last year, especially when I remember how many other Americans are not.

With that said, I find myself wondering whether its time to move on again.  This job fulfilled its purpose – it gave me a little more financial stability, I relocated to a new city (necessary for career growth and reinvigorating my social life), and it gave me a routine and structure that I needed.  BUT – there’s always a but, isn’t there – it just isn’t working for me anymore.  I’ve started the job hunt in earnest again, taking advantage of new city networking and the relatively healthy economy here in the District and may potentially have some options.

This makes it very fortuitous that I would come across this great post on one of my favorite websites, GOOD, that gives some advice on why it might be a good idea to quit your job.  Their considerations:

  • You don’t have to move home again:  This is definitely true in an urban setting – it’s easy to find roommates, cheap neighborhoods, or economy digs.  I rent from a friend who owns her own home, so my living expenses are economical and I know that I can cover my day-to-day with one of several possible alternate options on the table.  Also, I have a couple month’s rent saved up.  Do you?  You should.  (Ed. note:  This comment brought to you by your parents.)
  • Turn to the service industry:  GOOD suggests utilizing the “etc” section of Craigslist to increase your cash flow, either while you job hunt or to give you the cushion you need to quit.  I’m a firm believer that side money earned from odd jobs can often cover what you would make at your soul-crushing job – some people are made to juggle jobs instead of the 9-to-5 grind.  Not for everyone but an option that I believe in.
  • Quitting your job does not mean unemployed:  At least on paper.  If you’re concerned about gap time on your resume (and you should be, apparently), remember that you can be working without being employed.  We are a generation of freelancers, job-creaters, and career-crafters – with a high-speed Internet connection, gumption, and a strong work ethic, you can create your dream job.  Or at least have more fun than you’re having now.
  • Sometimes its just worth it:  This is the key element for me.  We have to put a value on our emotional well-being and our personal happiness.  Quitting your job can be a serious luxury but it also may be a necessity.
I’m still not entirely sure what I’m going to do yet.  I’m moving forward but not so ambitious as to put in my two weeks notice and figure it out later.  It is reassuring to know that the good people at GOOD – and many, many others – are around to remind me that sticking in a job that is not working out just because I should have a job is not a good enough reason.

A Poem Is Never Finished…

Only abandoned, as Paul Valery once said.  I’ve had poetry on the mind lately, in part to some wonderful literary conversations with my roommate, the literary scholar, and in part to a wonderful blog started by a former roommate which deals in humorous and touching haikus.

My Life in Haiku features daily haikus about the life and times of Abernathy Q, friend o’ the blog and all-around awesome lady hero.  Each day brings a new haiku, a smile to my face, and a spark of inspiration.  She accepts submissions, so consider putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and sending your own 17-syllable-words-of-wisdom.

In honor of Abernathy and her haikus, which have brought me endless amusement in the past few weeks, here are a few of my own haikus, expired by my own misadventures in postcollegiate life:

Work
Spent four years at school
Graduated with honors
Now I make copies

Love
Met very cute new boy
Not into social networks
No online chatting!

Ambitions
Used to want to save
The world; make a difference.
Now want 9-to-5

Jealousy
Friends all seem happy
Great jobs, money, and hot men
I hate my own envy

Sex
Changing preference
For men in their mid-thirties
Sex is much better

Finances
Only have twenty bucks
Spent fifteen at happy hour
Will not tell parents

My Life Lately
Still not sure about
Vita Abundantior
But I am trying!