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Brand New Set of Strings

10 Apr

“I bet this road will take me out of here /
Take me far away from Amarillo /
I bet this car will go real fast /
The wheels might even drive me past /
The places that you said I’d never go… /
You said I wouldn’t get too far /
On a tank of gas and an empty heart /
But I got everything I’ll ever need /
I got this old guitar and a brand new set of strings keys.”
– Miranda Lambert, “New Strings”

I have a new job.

That’s right, 23 months after coming home from my first week of work in tears, I am finally moving on to Big Girl Job #2.

I am so sad to leave the good and hilarious people I found at Job #1. Naturally, I went out with an epic happy hour after my last day, and I was reminded for the hundredth time how much I love all of them. They are sweet and caring and hardworking. And funny. Gut-wrenchingly funny. And the kids can drink. My kind of people, for sure. They were also incredibly gracious and encouraging when I announced my departure, and I was (still am) so grateful.

But y’all. I’m excited about this new gig. Really, genuinely excited.

I’m nervous too, just like I was when I started my first job, but – knock on wood!!!! — I think I might be here for a while. And I also think I could be pretty great at this.

I’m scared. And pumped. And, *gasp*, ready.

“This could be the year /
This could be the moment /
You’ve been waiting your whole life to show the world the cards you’re holding.”
– Ryan Star, “This Could Be the Year”

This “Adulthood” Myth

26 Jan

Adulthood sucks.

Transitioning into it from college is worse.

I learned both of these lessons quickly after graduating (and starting a job a week later).

What I’ve learned in the 18 months since is that as isolating as those first months of adulthood seem, they are not unique. Every single person I have talked to has struggled with the transition, and yet, unlike when you prepared for college and friends and strangers alike spouted advice and encouragement, no one warns you about the post-college adjustment. No one tells you how to cope when you or all of your friends move away, or how not to pull your hair out in boredom after sitting at the same desk for eight hours, five days a week or how to counteract the exhaustion and exasperation that sets in after dealing with the worst…boss….ever.

Growing up is hard. And the roller coaster step from college to real world is super hard. The year after I graduated was absolutely the hardest one of my life.

But it gets better. Easier. And not just because you start to figure it — and yourself — out. It also gets better because you realize that no one has it all the way figured out. Everyone’s faking it just a little. And this may be the one instance when faking it from time to time (or most of the time) is okay. In fact, it’s kind of encouraged. Because the point isn’t that you always get the right answers or even that you ask the right questions; it’s just that you ask something, that you try everything.

While we were driving to Nashville, I was telling Sarah about a boy who had reappeared in my life and how he seemed a little intimidated by how much work influenced me and how close I was to my co-workers, since he is in the middle of finding his first permanent, post-college job.

“He probably thinks you’re ahead of him, and he’s uncomfortable with that,” she said.

I actually laughed. I am not “ahead” of anyone. Sure, I may pay my own bills and manage to feed my dog and myself (when I’m not avoiding the grocery store like it’s a Florida fan, which I have been known to do… who says a pear and frozen edamame aren’t a sufficient supper??). I have enough money left over for yoga and a bi-weekly manicure, and I’m thrilled about that. But I still get lost and confused and upset just as often as Sarah, who is working desperately to break out of the hold of home without abandoning the mom who so desperately needs her, or this boy, who feels astronomical pressure to choose all the right paths and make something of himself right now. I’m still learning how to cook. I’m still avoiding cleaning and laundry. I still don’t know where I want my career to go. (Marketing? Content? Social Media?) I still don’t own an iron, for God’s sake. (Wrinkle Release is your best friend, by the way.)

I’m slowly learning and narrowing it down, but let’s not kid ourselves: I’m not “ahead” of any other 23 year old on the planet.

I’m still a long (long) way from figuring it all out. But faking it has taught me this much about how to be a grown-up:

1. Your job is only 50 percent (sometimes less) what you do. The rest is who you work with.

I cried on my 22nd birthday at work because I was so miserable and terrified that I would be trapped in this awful office existence for the rest of my life. But on my 23rd, three of my coworkers got up early and took me to The Biscuit. My guess is on my 24th there will be a week of lunches, lots of cake and at least one happy hour.

I spent my first six months here dreading work every single day. But my coworker (now, boss/best friend at work) was the first person I told that my mom had cancer. (We went to lunch the day I found out, and the words came spilling out before I could stop them.) I’ve spent an entire Sunday (not to mention that epic, six-hour, “festive” happy hour right before Christmas) with my four favorite work friends watching football and drinking beer. And when snowpocolypse hit and stranded us all, I walked to a former co-worker’s house for hot chocolate and the Bourne trilogy and participated in a 115-message email chain (mostly about the varying types and amounts of alcohol needed for each stage of cabin fever) amongst current ones. These people are not just co-workers anymore. They are my friends. They form an integral part of my life now, and I’m so grateful for their presence, and I know that I will still count them as friends long after we’re done working together.

So yeah, work is about doing a job and building a career, but it means something because of the people around you. When it comes to future job considerations, remember that.

2. Cynicism and fear are worthless.

I have long struggled with negative energy, convincing myself that if I just expect the worst, reality has to be at least marginally better. I’ve realized, though, what a terrible outlook that is. Cynicism is limiting and unattractive. It helps no one, and it’s wasteful. I’ve vowed to rid myself of it, and I’m winning.

Fear is the bully who keeps on coming, no matter how much you scream and hit and shout at him to leave you alone.

We should all keep punching him in the mouth. He tells us not to apply for that job and not to call that boy. He guides us to lonely dead ends and stalks our big dreams.

He’s evil.

Tell him to go eff himself.

People fall into careers and relationships and opportunities all the time simply because they were brave enough to ignore the fear and try. A manager (and one of my favorite people) at work has landed virtually all of his jobs by accident, including a years-long DJ-ing gig in Germany because the original DJ didn’t show up to the club one night and the owner asked him to step in. My best friend called me in mid-November crying and freaking out because a boy in her small company was making her head spin and world alight, while she still had a boy she loved back in Nash. Two and a half months later, she is busy being madly in love with the new boy and slowly planning a future with him.

They were scared, sure. But they tried. As far as I can tell, that’s the only “key” to adulthood: effort. (And maybe courage, too.)

I’ll say it again: I’m not “ahead” of anyone. I struggle all the time. Daily, really. Last week, I was a mess of doubt and melancholy.

And adulthood still sucks. Even on my best grown-up days, I wish I could have stayed in college forever. That was a magical place, and this is a practical one.

Growing up is hard. Life is hard. And we’ll never have it all down. So I’m trying my best…and faking the rest.

“You are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and in places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say, ‘yes.’ And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say, ‘yes’ back. Now, will saying, ‘yes’ get you in trouble at times? Will saying, ‘yes’ lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes, it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a reaction to the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say, ‘no.’ But saying, ‘yes’ begins things. Saying, ‘yes’ is how things grow. Saying, ‘yes’ leads to knowledge. ‘Yes’ is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say, ‘yes.’”

– Stephen Colbert, 2006 Knox College Commencement Address