It Doesn’t Get Better: Life After Graduation

Hey kids. Congrats on making it through about 17 years of school. Now you’re being released into the real world. How does it feel? Awesome, yet awful at the same time. For most, you’re probably not going to ever have to write another paper or take another test ever again in your life. Now it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do with that degree, where you’re going to use it, and who’s going to be there when you figure all that out.

I remember I once had a co-worker who was 30-something when I was a Senior in college. She was having a discussion with our boss about her 20s, and she said something like, ‘Oh I would never want to live through my 20s again. My 30s are much better. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing back then. It was horrible.’

22-year-old Traci thought she was being ridiculous. 27-year-old Traci thinks she’s absolutely correct.

Sorry to rain on your graduation parade, but I’m just going to give you a heads up on what to prepare yourself for in the near future.

Your first job out of college probs won’t be the start of your career

Listen, in this economy (insert gag sound for using that annoying phrase) you’re just lucky if you can get hired. While it’s not liked there aren’t any jobs available, it’s just that more people are applying for the same jobs and it’s just that more difficult to stand out from a plethora of applicants.

I had to work retail for a few years before getting the job I have now. It was half not hearing back from the places I applied to and half me not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I say, if you have a job that pays you money, but you’re still working towards your ultimate dream job, then it’s all good, homie.

Don’t be afraid to take chances

Not knowing what you’re doing in the future, or even in the next year can be scary. But you’re young. This is the right time to be an adult and be decisive. If a life changing opportunity comes up and you’re afraid to take it – don’t be. Now is a better time than any for trial and error.

In 2009, two of my best friends told me they were taking a road trip to LA and moving out west. I was in this place of ‘what do I really want to do career wise’ – and the only answer I could come up with was something entertainment related. I didn’t have the same resources in Boston so LA was the only logical choice. I went into it with a ‘fuck it who cares if I fail at least I tried attitude’. 3 months later, we hopped in a car and drove cross country and I haven’t looked back ever since.

Dorm life is over

Pack it up kids. Maybe one of the most heart wrenching things about graduating is that you won’t be able to see your BFFs every day like you’re used to. No more dining hall run ins, no more late night visits to the convenience store. Your clique as a whole will never be the same. There will be at least one person who moves away, or in some cases, everyone disperses back from whence they came. You’re never going to all live in the same place again ( of course I’m generalizing here, idk what your college life is life, but I’m gonna go ahead and make an ass out of you and me and say your friends are leaving you). It’s somehow different from high school, relationships and friendships have different dynamics when you’re in college, but it’s always up to you to make an effort to stay in touch. Good luck with that.

You’re going to fuck up

It’s inevitable. But get over it, learn from your mistake, don’t do it again and go on with your life. As the years go on, you also learn that there’s no time to waste on feeling sorry for yourself so point your energy to something more productive.

Be grateful

Okay, so life is confusing and overwhelming and annoying and you just want it all figured out already. But don’t get jaded. Think about what you can be thankful for. The fact that you’re even reading this blog post means you’re doing something right in your life. I know this post was originally intended to be cynical and depressing, but guess what, just like life, there’s always a silver lining. You just need to get through all the murky shit to see it.

The Longest Relationship I’ve Been In Has Made Me Reflect On My Life

The year was 1995 *cue old grandpa voice*, I was on a field trip during summer day camp at the local roller skating rink, Horizon Fun FX. We were playing one of those mandatory group games which requires going to four corners or something, idk. All I knew was that I wanted out immediately because I’m not that good at skating and I don’t like group games. I’m also not good at summer camp. Anyways, my younger Kindergarten friend ended up winning said game, and her “prize” was a cassette tape single of Backstreet Boys’ We’ve Got it Goin’ On (looking back, it was clearly free promo swag that Horizon needed to give away, not a special once in a lifetime prize like I thought). Kindergarten friend came up to me and said, “I don’t want this, do you?” I looked at her incredulously and said, “BACKstreet Boys?? I’ve heard of BLACKstreet, but not BACKstreet.”

Cut to me buying the very CD We’ve Got It Goin’ On was featured on, and me looking like this for the next few (18) years:

Since that summer’s day in ’95, I went to every single concert tour, lined my childhood bedroom with posters and clippings from teen magazines, purchased every piece of paraphernalia you can think of, voted incessantly for their music videos on TRL, and even used to buy two copies of each album – one in CD format and one in cassette format, because you know, just in case. Basically I was the epitome of a teenybopper. Perhaps it was your worst nightmare, but it was some of the best days of my life.

I’ve stayed a fan to this day, and although I don’t get as fangirl-y as I used to, the excitement is still there. These five boys have really been only one the most constant presences in my life. Friends have come and gone over the years, but my love for their music and how it makes me feel has never left.

The guys celebrated their 20th anniversary on April 20th (yes, you’re/we’re that old), and I was lucky enough to attend a special fan celebration they held here in Hollywood. I got there about two hours early, waiting in the hot LA sun with a bunch of girls/women my age, who had also grown up with them. People were wearing shirts from tours past, and someone in front of me even put to use an old BSB branded metal lunchbox (which I also had, but did not bring with me) as a purse. After hours of waiting, we were clearly hot, thirsty, hungry, and all waayy too old to be doing this shit anymore. The atmosphere has since changed since my first BSB concert back in 1999. More people were looking for seats to sit down in rather than rushing towards the front of the stage, and alcoholic beverages were being thrown back everywhere you look. But the feeling is still there – we were all excited to see the Backstreet Boys.

To add to the 20th anniversary celebration, the boys also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that following Monday. Obviously this is a big deal for any entertainer, but as each of them went up to speak at the ceremony, you could tell that this meant a great deal to them. For all but one (stoic Howie D) was overcome with emotion and brought to tears with the long journey it’s taken to arrive at that very moment.

AJ (my boo) said, “Aside from my wedding day and the birth of my daughter, this is by far the best day in my life.”

Kevin, who if you don’t know, left the group circa 2006 and officially rejoined this year, added, “Who would have thought 20 years ago, when we began this journey together that this would be a stop along the way? The first time the five of us sang together it was a Boyz II Men song. We picked up those harmonies and that was it. It was on.” (Feel free to listen, and not watch because they look horrendous, to their a cappella cover of End of the Road)

And guess whose star is planted right next to theirs? Yup, Boyz II Men.

As I watched the live stream of the ceremony, I too was brought to tears, not only because I cry easily, but because I felt like I was going through the same emotions they were. They’ve gone through surgeries, breakups, rehab, a man swindling millions from them, marriage, babies, and more – and they never could have imagined that they would be among those forever cemented in Hollywood history.

backstreet-boys-600

That day at work, I was wrote a story about one of the big entertainment news items of the day: BSB getting a star on the walk of fame. There I was, scrolling through professional press pictures of these five guys, whose faces were plastered all over my walls and notebooks and anything else you can imagine. I couldn’t help but think the same thing Kevin thought, “Who would have thought 18 years ago, when I got that cassette tape that I would be getting paid to write about my favorite band?”

I was hit with an incredible sense of surrealism. I started off the day watching the live stream of the Walk of Fame ceremony on my computer in my apartment, had to leave for work, so I streamed it on my phone because I’m insane, and literally drove past a closed off Hollywood Boulevard because they were getting their star, only to arrive to my place of employment where I was being compensated to spout off my BSB knowledge? This can’t be my life.

I know this all sounds really cheesy, so thanks for sticking with me this far. But in that moment of realization, I felt incredibly #blessed and thankful that a nine-year-old fangirl from Rochester, NY could make it to Los Angeles and have a veritable dream job that allows me to write this stuff. I try my best not to sound jaded or show off-y or cynical about my job or life in general, but everything that I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been in the past 18 years was worth all the worrying – the crying, the ‘what the fuck am I gonna do next’ questions – because it led to something that is perfect for me.

At the ceremony, the guys chose “superfan” Lori Meono to say a little speech on behalf of the fans. She said, “They have created the soundtrack for my most memorable moments… from braces to bridal showers, to Happy Meals and heartbreaks, the Backstreet Boys have been there consistently through it all.”

And it’s true. It’s why you’ll see fans waiting overnight and lined up around the block in order to attend the 20th Anniversary party. If BSB isn’t your jam, replace it with another music group, a favorite sports team, what have you. They have helped you get through things in a way no one else could, and induced joy and happiness that is incomparable. Being a Backstreet Boys fan hasn’t always been easy since a lot of people don’t take them seriously, and I get that. But I would never take back the past 18 years of my life. They’ve been the only thing I’ve consistently followed and liked for nearly two decades, and really, has been the longest relationship of my life. As much as the boys have grown up since 1993, their fans have too. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Amy Poehler: Sage to all

If you know either Molly or I, or have even been reading this blog for a while, you know that we have a special place in our heart for Amy Poehler. So naturally, I follow (read: stalk) everything she does. Amy started a website/YouTube channel a while ago called Smart Girls at the Party, which inspires, encourages, and features young, smart, women. All their featured shows are fantastic (and even involve dance parties!), but one of my favorites on the site (and on the internet) is Ask Amy.

This is a series of short videos in which Amy answers viewer questions, and focuses on one topic per episode. You may have seen the latest episode make its rounds on the internet.

I Love You Boston

As you can tell, she approaches these videos and topics from an honest, earnest place, and genuinely wants to give advice to everyone watching. What’s touching about this particular episode is that Amy, who is a Boston-area native, is clearly fed up with last week’s horrific events, and her downcast and fed up demeanor exemplifies exactly what I’m assuming all of America is feeling right now. And while we may not have all the answers to what’s going on, there is something we can do to prevent from becoming too saturated with the bad things in the world.

Sigh. I love her so much. Here are a few of my favorite episodes, but I suggest you check the whole site out!!

Goodbye
“The only thing we can depend on is change… Life is just a series of moments… a string of pearls that make up the necklace of your life and every once in a while to complete the circle, you need to end a chapter.” (Bonus Abel at the end!!!)

Decisions
“Most decisions aren’t final. Feelings change all the time. You can always change your mind and taking risks and making choices is what makes life so exciting because we never know whats going to happen. Every day something new comes our way. Isn’t that exciting?”

Letting Go

“Let go of the idea of trying… Letting go suddenly is an act of faith and the universe provides for you what is really meant to be.”

Courage

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it.”

Stress
In which Amy sits in a bathtub and calls herself a crazy person.

‘Parks And Recreation’: A Love Letter To The Hometown

After I graduated law school, I found a job in the legal profession (!) … in my hometown. Here I am, back where it all began.

English: City of Rochester, New York.

I hope you like that bridge because it took about 10 years to finish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am from Rochester, New York. There are far worse places that you could live. In fact, as a pretty humble city, I suggest that Rochester adopts “there are far worse places that you could live” as its slogan. It has less violent crime than Detroit (Detroit has many fine attributes, like motown), lower average yearly snowfall than Anchorage (AND ten other U.S. Cities!), and, with over a million people in the Rochester metropolitan area, is by far the largest Rochester in the United States. George Eastman (founder of Kodak), Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Kristen Wiig have all called this city home. (A Marie Claire profile of Wiig referred to Rochester as a “suburban backwater,” which was a little harsh for a city with so many fine cultural institutions.)  Did I mention that the National Museum of Play is here, too?

But this piece isn’t about Rochester, this is about hometowns, and living in yours as an adult — whether you’re from a mid-sized city, a mega-metropolis, or a small town. There’s a tendency, I think, to feel like if you live where you did at 14, maybe the rest of your life has become stagnant, too (you know, like a suburban backwater?). It’s easy to fear becoming that former varsity athlete who works at the same gas station he did senior year, reliving his glory days. Luckily for me, I was never very good at anything in high school, so that’s not really a danger. I don’t think appearing in the chorus of high school musicals and playing second doubles in tennis counts as “glory days” by any standard.

One bright spot if you find yourself back in your place of birth is the NBC series Parks and Recreation. It is a love letter to the hometown. The protagonist, Leslie Knope, is proud to be from Pawnee, Indiana, and is proud to live there still. As you watch the series, you can’t help but fall in love with Leslie’s enthusiasm about Pawnee, and hopefully you can catch some enthusiasm about your hometown, too. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from everyone’s favorite mid-level municipal employee:

(1) Nobody insults your hometown but you. And maybe you shouldn’t either. You will never see Knope more angry than when residents of nearby Eagleton snub Pawnee. Eagletonians are jerks, though: “When a tornado went through Pawnee, we asked Eagleton for help, but they claimed they weren’t home. The whole town said they weren’t home.” Your hometown is like your siblings when you were a kid: you might have complaints about them, but you would not put up with that kind of talk from anyone else. So when people make fun of your city’s downtown crow infestation, you should either remind them that at least that means the city’s secret uranium store didn’t kill them all, or take a cue from Leslie Knope and shut the whole conversation down:

(2) First in friendship, fourth in obesity. There are negative things about every city. Maybe the local sweets factory has contributed to a full-blown obesity bonanza. Maybe teen girl battles have compromised the municipal transit system. Despite its flaws, there are certainly plenty of wonderful people in your hometown. There’s something great about friends you have known for decades. But, some of Leslie’s best friends are not native Pawneeans. Remember that just because you grew up in your city, doesn’t mean everyone you meet there did. Be friendly and welcoming to newcomers, and they just might fall in love with your hometown, too. Ben Wyatt thought he was just passing through Pawnee, but the wonderful locals (well, mostly Leslie) changed his mind.

Cover Illustration of The Wonderful Leaps of S...

This guy leaped off of waterfalls nationwide, but he died in OUR waterfall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(3) Lil’ Sebastian Makes Everything Better. In one of Leslie’s greatest triumphs, she brings hometown hero Lil’ Sebastian (a winsome, elderly pony) back to the Harvest Festival. One of the best things about living in your hometown is being familiar with the local shorthand and in-jokes. Someone from Indianapolis or Eagleton might not understand the appeal of a geriatric pony with a heart of gold, but Pawneeans do. My city has a flagpole strung with lights instead of a municipal Christmas tree, a laser light show about an ill-fated 19th century daredevil and his pet bear, and our must-try cuisine is called a garbage plate. I love them all, because I grew up with them — except for the garbage plate, anyway.  It is hard to understand these hometown heroes if you aren’t actually from the town – I remember the locals getting all fired up about “spiced wafers” when I lived in Philly, and I just didn’t understand it because they taste like a grandmother – but when you are from there, it’s magic.

(4) Success starts at home. Living in a small town doesn’t mean that Leslie Knope has given up on her dreams. Instead, she believes that she could be president one day. More importantly, she takes steps to achieve her dreams while she’s still in Pawnee, running an impassioned campaign to become Pawnee’s next councilwoman — just see her closing argument in “The Debate,” where Leslie suggests that maybe true success involves making a difference right where you are:

I love this town. And when you love something, you don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first. As your City Councilman, I will make sure that no one takes advantage of Pawnee. If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on too strong, its because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This is my home, you are my family, and I promise you, I’m not going anywhere.

(5) If all else fails, just slisten to Amy Poehler. Here is Poehler’s take on her character’s life in Pawnee: “I think there’s something very romantic about people deciding to be in love with your own small town. There’s a lot of arc in art and literature about moving to the big city, and there’s something really sweet about moving to a small town.” Whenever she talks about her character, Poehler respects Knope’s tenacity, and never acts like Leslie is at all pathetic for living in her hometown. And neither are you. Just ask Leslie Knope (…unless you’re from Eagleton).

The Enviable Tenacity of Paris Eustice Geller

paris

Paris Geller – a girl many look up to, yet fear at the same time. She’s extremely bright, surprisingly bi-lingual, a Yale graduate, and often times exudes Stalin-esque leadership skills. And there’s a part of me that wishes I had all of these qualities. Did I mention she’s a fictional character?

For those not in the Gilmore Girls know-how, Paris Geller is truly one of a kind. When we first meet Paris, she is the popular mean girl at the well-privileged private school Rory transfers to. Paris targets Rory and makes her her enemy because she’s the only one who could possibly compete with Paris intellectually, and vie for the Valedictorian spot come senior year. I have never seen a character on tv as studious, determined, hard-working, and ruthless as her. Some prime examples:

– Paris reveals to Rory she’s been volunteering for a Habitat for Humanity-like organization for years, because that’s what will get her into Harvard. “I started volunteering in fourth grade. I handed out cookies at the local children’s hospital. By ten, I was leading my first study group. The youngest person in the group was twelve. I’ve been a camp counselor. I organized a senior illiteracy program, I worked a suicide hotline, I manned a runaway center. I’ve adopted dolphins, taught sign language, trained seeing eye dogs.” This concerns Rory. She hasn’t done any of those things.

– In an attempt to gloat about her PSAT scores, Paris brags about her results to her friends, but when she asks Rory, she doesn’t oblige, and this drives Paris nuts. She knows Rory’s hiding her probably much higher score from her, and she even pulls a Mean Girls 3 way call scenario on her just to find out.

– When writing for the Yale Daily News’ Religion Beat, Paris goes hardcore when writing an article. “Look, Rory, if you want to crib your articles from the A.P. Wire, that’s your business. I, on the other hand, actually give a rat’s ass about journalistic integrity. When I write about Ramadan, I experience Ramadan. Are you chewing gum?

Throughout high school, Paris’s goal was to get into Harvard. When that didn’t pan out, she ended up going to Yale and becoming BFFs with Rory. She then spent all 4 years in college focusing on her next step, which was going to either med school or law school (she was so smart she could’ve taken up both professions, but she decided to be a doctor instead). Paris even created an extensive plan for her and Rory called “Operation Finish Line,” planning out in detail the last 5 months of their senior year. These boards included categories such as job fairs, tests, volunteer ops, seminars, classic college activities, etc. Most were legit (MCAT test prep classes) but others were default tactics, so as to not be unprepared come graduation (oceanography fellowship – ‘don’t even know what direction the ocean is in’).

THIS IS NOT HUMAN. Maybe this is how Type A Ivy Leaguers do it, but I can’t even begin to think about how much work she put into making those boards.* It’s crazy to think that there’s even a slight possibility someone out there in real life has mapped out an entire 5 month detailed plan of what they’ll do after they graduate college.**

This is not how I ever have or probably ever will treat an important life changing decision in my life. Frankly, I’m a little jealous. If I even had an ounce of what Paris had, I would probably have my act together and be 4 years into my ‘professional career’. But I’m not. I made no chart. I attended no seminars. I took no extemporaneous tests. The most I’ve ever done is make a pro and con list to decide whether to move to Los Angeles or not (embarassingly enough after Rory Gilmore’s decision making tactics). Even though I think Paris looks like a complete lunatic taking these extra steps in order to plan out her life, that’s precisely what I need right now. I need to figure out exactly what I want and create a clear cut goal to achieve. I need that rather annoying persistent determination to get it. I need to see the exact steps I have to take in order to reach that goal. I need to want to do all those things. Most of all, I need Paris to make these boards, and tell me what to do next, because i sure as hell don’t know myself. So if you’re out there, real life Paris, let me know. Because I could really use your help right now. Fictional Paris just isn’t going to cut it.

* I am fully aware this is not a real person

** Again, I can totally see an Ivy Leaguer doing this, but i went to Emerson. Unless it’s a storyboard for the movie you’re making, you didn’t do this.