8 Questions I Asked My Parents About Their Marriage

As featured on Hello Giggles.

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As a 23-year-old who owns and operates several social media accounts, it is difficult for me to go a full day without being confronted with the topic of marriage. First thing in the morning, a scroll through my Facebook feed provides a few freshly penned blog posts about life as a newlywed, or mommy-to-be. By lunchtime, I can expect to see at least two or three Instagrams of a shiny stone, a perfect manicure, and an “I said yes!” caption — all tastefully filtered in Amaro, of course. Evening falls and honeymooners take time to tweet about #lifewiththeirbestfriend. Despite incessant displays that attempt to involve me in the lives of young, married couples, I can’t really say that I’ve received an accurate depiction of what it’s like to be married. In the same way that a picture I posted of a shrimp and avocado salad captioned #yum a few weeks ago is not a realistic image of the way that I eat every day, a selection of moments shared by those in lifelong commitments is not a practical illustration of the minute-by-minute realities of being married. The notion that these contrived exhibitions are subconsciously shaping my idea of married life is scary.

Aside from the somewhat untrustworthy glimpses we get from our friends and followers, most of us base our assertions, values, and desires surrounding marriage off of our parents’ relationship — for better or for worse. This Independence Day, my parents will celebrate their 27th wedding anniversary. For some reason, this year’s milestone seems particularly significant. Maybe it’s because I’m watching several of my own friends get married. Or maybe it’s because I’m finally becoming old enough to realize just how staggering the thought of 27 years with the same person is. Either way, it suddenly seems a pretty huge feat. I realized that my parents could provide insight on this topic that I’m unable to glean from the blog posts, Facebook statuses, and tweets of my peers. So, I decided to interview them about their marriage.

Over the course of 27 years, they have become parents to my brother and I and three golden retrievers. They’ve facilitated cross-country moves, weathered career shifts, and mourned losses. They’ve conquered illness, carried financial burden, and petitioned for equality in our conservative community. In a lot of ways, they are incredibly average Americans. And in a lot of ways, they are spectacular. They met over the phone — which, in the ‘80’s, was a lot less common than in the age of dating apps — while working for the same company. Dad made mom laugh. Mom gave dad her home phone number. And the rest, as they say, is history. I asked my parents, separately, about what it’s like to be married for 27 years. Here are their answers:

1. Can you remember a specific moment in time when you knew you would end up marrying dad/mom?

M: I distinctly remember one of the first times dad called me at home (prior to us meeting in person) and we talked for almost 5 hours on the phone. When I hung up I thought, “I could marry that man!” From our first phone conversations we were never at a loss for words and we talked about deep things right from the start. He could hold his own in a conversation and that meant a lot to me.

D: I don’t remember the time and place, but I remember telling my cousin Robert that I was falling for mom right after meeting her.

2. When you said “I do,” could you imagine that you’d still be married 27 years later? Do you think you fully comprehended what it meant?

M: I hoped that we would but honestly I had no idea! We had a lot of naysayers surrounding us when we got married — so many people only gave us two or three years tops. I think we both went into marriage with the idea of forever (as both of our parents had long-time marriages) but we were also realistic and knew that without commitment, it wouldn’t last.

D: I don’t think anybody can fully comprehend (in advance) what 27 years of marriage really means.

3. What aspect of marriage were you most pleasantly surprised by?

M: The comfort and security of a long-time partner. It is always good to know that you have someone in your corner who you can count on to be there for you through thick and thin — and to know that your spouse will comfort you when you need comforting and celebrate with you when something good happens. Knowing that your partner cares what happens to you is everything.

D: I don’t ever recall feeling surprised by marital life — but if you’re asking what part of marriage is the most pleasant, it’s the comfort of knowing you always have a friend to come home to who loves you.

4. What do you think is the most challenging part of being married?

M: Managing the pressures of life and your own personal “stuff” as well as your partner’s day to day cares and worries. Your life can be going okay and your partner is struggling with something and you can’t escape that (and vice versa). It can be hard at times. Also, recognizing that we each have different needs and learning how to compromise and balance it all out.

D: I guess just the challenges of everyday life — financial pressures, raising you kids. Health issues can be challenging, too, especially as we’re getting older.

5. What has been the greatest obstacle you and dad/mom have faced over 27 years?

M: We have faced many over the years, some more intense than others. Financial pressures have been a part of our lives since the beginning, some years more than others. We have learned over the years to trust that God will provide what we need and when we need it, but it still is hard at times. The loss of loved ones has been very challenging, too.

D: I went through a stretch of unemployment and underemployment when we were forced to leave California, and that was very difficult at times. We had our obstacles raising you kids, too. And of course, your aunt Jane’s passing was (and in many ways, still is) one of the most difficult times we’ve endured.

6. Other than the days Matt and I were born, what has been the most joyous day or occasion you’ve experienced as a married couple?

M: My surprise birthday party (50th) was a highlight for me as I know it was for the whole family. Such wonderful memories were made that night! We enjoyed both you and Matt’s college graduations, too. We were (and are) so proud of you kids!

D: Probably mom’s fiftieth surprise birthday party because of all the friends and family that were there. I was moved when mom cried after her friends from high school came out of the kitchen and surprised her — that was the most special part for me.

7. What’s one thing that dad/mom does that makes you feel glad you married him/her 27 years ago?

M: He loves me unconditionally. He would do anything I asked him to do (within reason!) and will never hesitate to do something that he knows will please me or help me out. It can be as simple as stopping at the store on the way home from work — even if it’s pouring outside and he’s tired and hungry — to planning an elaborate scheme to surprise me on my birthday. When I see myself through his eyes, I see just how much he loves me, and it makes me love him even more. Also, his love for you and Matt and what a terrific dad he is. He is my biggest cheerleader and always encourages me to go after my dreams.

D: Mom’s loyalty, commitment, and unconditional love. She is the smartest person I know, and I always value her opinion. It’s comforting to know that she will always be there when I need her.

8. If you could’ve been given a key piece of advice before marrying dad/mom, what would it have been?

M: I don’t know if there is a key piece of advice, but one thing I know for sure is that it is important to marry someone with whom you share the same values. Dad and I would never have lasted as long as we have if we didn’t value each other and our family above other things. Our love, faith in God, and our commitment to each other have been the key to our long marriage.

D: Life requires a lot of patience and trusting that everything will be okay. Learn to forgive and to not keep score. Everyone can be difficult to live with at times — learning to move on is very important. Let go of angry feelings as fast as possible. Forgive yourself when you feel that you have not lived up to your standards.

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A Four-Step Guide to Getting Back Up After Getting the Boot

So, you’ve been dumped. Or you’re anticipating being dumped. Or you’ve taken an interest in how to cope with being dumped for reasons unknown. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. While I would consider myself to be an expert on only a few subjects — homemade pizza, applying mascara, and public transportation — I am most certainly an expert on getting dumped. Despite my natural charisma, gentle spirit, and inherent charm, I’ve actually been dumped quite a few times in my 22 years — far more times than I’ve done the dumping. I’ve even been dumped by the same guy twice. I’ve been dumped at a bar, over AIM, outside of a Starbucks, beside a duck shit-ridden lake — you get the idea. I like to tell myself (and others) that it’s because I never give up on anything, especially other people. But it’s probably that I’m just kind of dumpable. Or I have a chronic body odor issue that has not yet been brought to my attention. Or, more realistically, I have consistently dated the wrong guys. While we could analyze our dumpability score for weeks — probably months — on end, the bigger mystery is this: how do we move forward? How do we tackle this unpleasant reality like the smart, self-assured, confident men and women that we are? Maybe you’ve never been romantically dumped (which would mean you’re some super species concocted in a petri dish, or you’re Miranda Kerr — if so, hey Miranda! Thanks for reading my stuff!) but everyone, even Miranda, is met with some form of rejection over the course of their lifetime. How do you confront the curb when you’ve been kicked to it? Below is my succinct, smart girl’s guide to getting back up after you’ve gotten the boot.

1) Indulge

Listen, no one’s perfect here. You’re going to experience some embarrassing, even deplorable urges in the wake of your personal “it’s not you, it’s me” episode. If you tuck these feelings away during the immediate aftermath, they’re likely to rear their ugly heads further on down the line, when you least expect (and want) them to. You have 24 hours to 7 days, depending upon the length and severity of your relationship, to revel in the dirtiest, ugliest, most pathetic desires of your heart. Indulge in a few good crys. Inundate your mom and/or bestie with “BUT I LOVED HIM” texts. Listen to Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough” on repeat while drying out a bottle of Pinot Grigio in the tub. Do whatever you need to to get such behavior out of your system — because after a few days, it’s simply not acceptable anymore. If you don’t comfort yourself in the beginning of your post-breakup season, you’re bound to sneak those buried feelings into every booze-fueled conversation you have for the next sixth months — and come on, girl, you’re too poised for that. Let the weepy, dejected, pitiful you out, so you can leave her behind for good.

2) Disconnect

As a born-and-bred millennial who owns at least five Apple devices and is employed by an e-commerce startup, I will freely admit that there are a wealth of reasons why the Internet is a positive addition to our society. There are, however, many reasons why it absolutely sucks — and staying connected to ex-boyfriends, awkward flings, and dumpers is one of them. The very first, and most important step in moving on after being left behind is freeing yourself from the slavery of constantly knowing what your ex is up to, and who he or she is up to it with. Many have said it before me, but I’ll say it again: you cannot be friends with your ex. This means Facebook friends, Twitter pals, Instagram followers — it’s all a one-way ticket to holding on far longer than the necessary and healthy timeline. As the dumped party, it’s natural to feel inferior to the dumper. When someone walks away from you, despite their reasons, it’s human nature to analyze all of the things that are imperfect within yourself and amplify all of the seemingly perfect aspects of your former partner. Social media posts are the most contrived bits of reality in existence, and if you’re constantly faced with someone’s edited version of the best morsels of their life, you’re going to continue to believe in the illusion of who they were when you were together. It’s important to view your ex for who they were within the context of your history, not who they are in their social media posts. Plus, after disconnecting, you’ll be less tempted to blast an embarrassing subtweet after too many half-price margs — which, trust me, you will ALWAYS regret.

3) Reconnect

What to do with all of the time you’ve freed up since blocking your ex’s Kelvin-filtered gaiety from view? It’s time to start investing in yourself again! Relationships are about sacrifice — and a lot of times we subconsciously (and consciously) abandon the things that made us happy in order to spend time with or tend to our romantic partners. Being happy with them is effortless, so we forget the things that take a little bit of work, but ultimately fulfill the parts of us that exist separate from our significant other. Join a book club. Hit the gym. Spend four hours working on a craft you saw on Pinterest. Do things for the sheer purpose of experiencing joy. Feeling sorry for yourself can take up quite a bit of time, but if you designate some of those free evenings for doing things you choose to do, with people you choose to do them with, you’ll get to know yourself in such a deep way that no one will be able to drag you from your individual passions in the future. Once newly-single you starts discovering all that you’ve missed out on or overlooked, your perspective on being dumped will begin to change, and you’ll start to see it for the blessing that it truly is — which brings us to our last step.

4) Be grateful

After one of my least enjoyable breakups, I called my mom in a cab on my way home and tearfully told her what had happened. She responded with a nugget of life-altering wisdom that I hope to never forget as I charge on in the mission to eventually uncover Mr. Right. After I told her I had been dumped, again, she told me that he had just done me “the biggest favor of my life.” It may be tough to choke down in the minutes following a breakup, but it really is true — not a single one of us wants to waste our time with someone that just doesn’t want to be with us. Letting us go and giving us an opportunity to meet someone who truly loves, cherishes, and wants to be with us is the biggest solid an ex can do us. One of the most difficult realities of being dumped is the feeling that your emotional health and circumstances are completely out of your control — one person decides that the relationship is over, and according to law, it must be so. But the truth is, you’re not out of control. You may not have had dominion over when the relationship ended, but you have dominion over yourself — and that’s the greatest power any of us can hope for. If someone doesn’t want to be with you, they’re just not worthy of you. Be grateful that an unworthy suitor has let you off the hook, and move on toward greener pastures, my friend. 

10 Things Carole King Has Taught Us That Ke$ha Never Will

As featured on Thought Catalog.
For better or worse, the music industry is ever-changing. The days of owning a single album where every track was at some point a #1 hit are seemingly on their way out. It’s tough to pinpoint who’s to blame — a culture centered on instant gratification or technology that allows us to pick and choose — but rarely do you hear full albums lauded in any sort of public sphere. Not in the way that they used to be, at least. Not like Carole King’s Tapestry — an album that my mom wore out when I was a kid. An album that would take time for me to understand. An album that raised me.
Now, I’m no snob and will admit freely that there are plenty of songs whose lyrics may not overwhelm me in depth, but that I wholeheartedly enjoy. I’ve still got “We Can’t Stop” on repeat and I’ll break it down to “Talk Dirty” with the best of ‘em. But, to put it plainly, they just don’t write lyrics like they used to. There are simply some things Carole King has taught us that Ke$ha never, ever will.

1. “I feel the earth move under my feet/ I feel the sky tumblin’ down”

It may only happen once, it may happen every weekend — but eventually, you’re gonna meet someone who grabs you by the tips of your toes and turns you on end. Your chest tightens when you look at them. Your feet go numb when they approach you. An elephant-sized lump takes residency in your throat when you see their name pop up on your phone. Logic, reason, and gravity are no match for your love-induced trip. You just lose control, down to your very soul.

Ke$ha’s take: “Your love, your love, your love is my drug.”

2. “You’re so far away/ Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?”

Chain yourself to the things of your youth. Damn your 401K to hell. Fight it all you want, but everybody grows up. And, even worse, everybody moves on. The blessing and the curse of time is that there’s not a thing you can do about it. Be it physical distance or emotional distance, time inevitably slips in and leaves you so far away from those you love or once loved. (Don’t worry — people don’t always drift apart, just wait ‘til you get to number 6!)

Ke$ha’s take: “D.I.N.O.S.A. U R a dinosaur.”

3. “Something inside has died/ I can’t hide it, I just can’t fake it”

This song is one of the bluntest ways to say that things. just. end. Whether it be a relationship, a job, a friendship, a trial run with ombre, you can’t deny when something — or your love of something — has truly died. Forgive yourself for trying for too long, accept that it’s too late to go back, and move on to something new.

Ke$ha’s take: “We R who we R.”

4. “I won’t be happy ‘til I see you alone again/ ‘til I’m home again and feelin’ right”

Your childhood home. The arms of the one(s) you love. A couch you bought on craigslist with your besties. Home is different for all of us, but one thing’s true — there’s nothing that feels more right than knowing you belong.

Ke$ha’s take: “I don’t need you and your brand new Benz/ or you bougie friends”

5. “You’re gonna find, yes you will/ That you’re beautiful as you feel”

Ah, Carole. Wise, noble Carole. We needed this reminder. Who will be able to see how beautiful we are if we skulk around with frustrated frowns all day? Acting like you’re beautiful makes you feel beautiful. Acting like others are beautiful makes them feel beautiful, too. Some days are the pits — and I’ll be the first to plead guilty to shoving on the metro, scowling in line for coffee, and answering emails abruptly. But there’s a lot of love in these hearts, so let’s make a conscious effort to get up in the morning and show it.

Ke$ha’s take: “I’m talkin’ pedicure on our toes, toes/ Tryin’ on all our clothes, clothes”

6. “Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall/ All you have to do is call”

As we learned in number 2, life happens and people grow apart; but there are some friends that time and distance will never separate. Whether it be a phone call, a cup of coffee, a shared memory, or a gchat, you can reach them in any season. Carole’s right — “ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend.” I’d like to think her album is a friend, too.

Ke$ha’s take: “Warrior, -rior, -rior.”

7. “If you need, you need me to be with you/ I will follow where you lead”

This song taught us that GILMORE GIRLS IS THE BEST SHOW IN THE HISTORY OF SHOWS and never, ever will it be topped. The episode where Sookie and Jackson have to ditch ten kilos of weed that was accidentally planted in their field? Genius. When Rory and Dean break up at the 24-hour dance marathon? Gut-wrenching. I could go on. (No seriously, I could. If you ever want to talk about/mourn this show with me, email me).

Ke$ha’s take: “Stop ta- ta- talkin’ that blah. blah. blah.”

8. “Tonight the light of love is in your eyes/ But will you love me tomorrow?”

Oh, man. This one gets me every time. This is one of those songs you have to grow to understand, and to appreciate. Every woman who has ever been with a man who is emotionally (or maybe physically) unavailable has stood exactly where Carole King stands in this song. You hang on to stolen moments with this person, because you know they won’t last. You cherish the instances that he “gives [his] love so freely,” because deep down, you know he can snatch his love back in the very same breath. This song so poignantly outlines the pain that comes with a love you can’t be sure of.

Ke$ha’s take: “That magic in your pants, it’s making me blush (for sure)”

9. “A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold/ A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold”

That’s some poetry if I’ve ever read it. Our memories, mistakes, hopes, and experiences all work to form the fabric of our little existence. We may not be able to roll them up and toss them on our backs, but we take it all with us, everywhere we go.

Ke$ha’s take: “We are, we are, we are, we are, we are the crazy kids/ we are the crazy people”

10. “You’re the key to my peace of mind/ ‘Cause you make me feel like a natural woman”

I’d like to think that this kind of love is the goal. After the ones who shake the ground beneath us, move on without us, and play us hot and cold, this type of love — it could be romantic love, friend love, or even self love, I believe — sets us free. I can’t think of a description of love that sounds more appealing than the state of feeling natural.

Ke$ha’s take: “I like your beard.”

 

A Response To “I’m The Girl Your Husband Is Sleeping With, And I Kind Of Think You Deserve It”

As featured on Thought Catalog.

Earlier today I came across this anonymous Thought Catalog post from a few weeks back, brazenly entitled “I’m The Girl Your Husband Is Sleeping With, And I Kind Of Think You Deserve It.”

If you haven’t yet, and you think you can stomach it, go ahead and give it a quick read. It tells the tale of our anonymous author, who doesn’t have “this princess complex” — which apparently so many of us girls have — and that allows her to coast confidently thought her “all fun, no drama” “relationship” with a married man, wherein they meet once a week during lunch to hook up. This infidelity, according to our author, is no fault of her “boyfriend’s” or her own, but the fault of his wife — who has, apparently, become “stale and monotonous” and is no longer “fun and zesty.”

Whew, where do I even begin? First of all, as a born-and-bred “girlfriends girl,” I have a really hard time with any woman who chooses not to stick up for other women. It’s hard for me to understand why someone, despite claims of being different than the rest of us due to her lack of “princess complex” (ugh), who surely knows what it’s like to be a woman, would hear one man’s side of the story and automatically bash her own sister. I understand that every circumstance is different, and you can’t just blindly defend someone because they have breasts — but in this authors case, she has based her opinion of his wife solely on his description of her and their marriage, and has even gone so far to say that she hates her — not cool, Anonymous. Didn’t anyone teach you about girl power?

Second, this post is rife with extremely damaging and wildly untrue stereotypes. Consider the following excerpt:

“Women want the title and the image: a fancy wedding, a big house. Men want the physical stuff, however shallow it seems: sex and someone who makes them feel desired.”

Are you kidding me with this? I’d sincerely like to know where our author is getting her information. I am not married, nor have I ever been close to marriage, but I do have several married friends, still-married parents, and oh, I don’t know, a clue when it comes to the complexities of human beings? I have more than a few male friends who want a “big house” and “title” out of a relationship, and more than a few female friends who want to be sexually desired, among other things. A simple answer does not exist to the question of what people want out of relationships, and anyone who says that a woman “kind of” deserves to be cheated on because she’s already been allotted a “fancy wedding” and a “title” should be ashamed of themselves.

The saddest part about this article is that I know this woman is not the only one who feels the way that she does. She’s not even one of a few. There are a lot of men, and sadly, women who think that someone who has allowed themselves to grow “stale and monotonous” deserves to be cheated on. Here’s my question for these people: should a person continue to be “fun and zesty” when their partner stops showing them love, attention, respect? Should a person consistently lay aside their personal needs to maintain a “FUN AND ZESTY” front so that their partner isn’t driven to cheating out of boredom? It takes two people to allow a relationship to grow “stale and monotonous,” and rather than running out for a replacement piece, why not focus your efforts on rebuilding the half that you let disintegrate?

As someone who hopes to eventually get married, it’s disheartening to read this type of material. Will I one day be tossed out because I’m not fun, exciting, or interesting enough? Are these the personality traits that make you a spouse worthy of remaining faithful to? I sure hope not. Because unlike our anonymous author, I’m not fun and zesty all time. I’m not, and will never be, satisfied with a man who meets me during my lunch break once a week. I’m a real woman, who feels real things, and who deserves real respect. And, unlike our anonymous author, I’m looking for a real man — one who doesn’t see escapism as a favorable alternative to our boring, real-life, stunningly ordinary relationship.

 

5 Types of Friends You Have in Your 20s

As featured on Thought Catalog.

Ah, friendship. There’s nothing quite like it, is there? When you’re a kid, a friend is basically anyone that lives near you (preferably in your neighborhood) or someone you’re obligated to hang out (play?) with because your parents are friends. High school comes along, and friends become your security; your limbs, your accessories, your bodyguards, your crew. Everyone knows you by your gang (and on Wednesdays, you wear pink.) College is its own friendship utopia, where not making friends might actually require more effort than making them. If nothing else, there are at least physical bodies within about two feet of you during every waking — and sleeping — moment.

Here, we arrive at our twenties. A decade that I am gracefully soaring through at this present moment. If you’re like me, you’ve moved to a new city after college and, unlike the days of dorm-wide naps and group trips to the dining hall, friends are fairly few and far between. In any twenty-something’s handful of friends, each unique compadre likely falls into one of the following categories:

1. Work friends

It’s probably safe to say that work friends are the easiest friends to make. You spend around 45-50 hours a week with them, so they basically know everything about you despite having not met any of your non-work friends, seen your apartment, or seen you, in any light but your office’s fluorescents. You commiserate about a long, upcoming meeting in that one conference room that doesn’t receive heat. You share with them the weekend’s drama while stress-binging cheese curls in the kitchen. You experience the royal baby birth, polar vortexes, and disappearing 300-passenger airplanes in real time with them. You love them, and that’s a good thing — because you have to see them every. damn. day.

2. #Blessed friends

#Blessed friends are those friends who are either getting married, having children, paying mortgages, or all three. These are friends with whom you have a history with and who you once deeply related to, but now find yourself struggling to imagine living one day in their shoes. You feign excitement over centerpieces. You gush at 40-60 engagment photos that all look identical. You pretend to ignore the fact that they likely pity you for your lack of progress toward a committed, legally-bound union. But you’re fine — really, you’re fine — with being a few years off from Instagramming your to-do list, that only displays one, sad little to-do: buy groceries. You love them, support them, and let them go a little — because they’re #MARRYINGTHEIRBESTFRIEND, and, spoiler alert: it’s not you.

3. “OMG is she crazy? Oh yeah. She’s crazy. She’s really F*cking crazy” friends

You wouldn’t expect this friend to meet you for a 6 a.m. hot yoga sesh before work, but at 11:30 at night when you feel like going out but have no plans (obviously — you are not that friend! Embrace it. It’s okay.) she’s the first girl you call. She’s likely a few drinks in already, so as soon as you show up, she’s got your back. You wince a little when she introduces you to her friends with a booming, “THIS IS MY FRIEND ____. SHE LIKE, NEVER GOES OUT BUT NOW SHE’S OUT DON’T YOU LOVE IT?”…even though you know it’s true. Around 2, you realize you physically cannot keep up with her. You’re hungry, and you start to wonder if she’s eaten. You let out an audible sigh upon realizing you have to go home and wash your makeup off after a measly two hours of wearing it. You’re puzzled as to how she has such great skin when she very clearly does not wash her makeup off every night. She can’t possibly be washing her face every night, can she? You envy her a little. “She just LOVES life,” you think to yourself. You wonder if you can be like her. But then you remember that you do love life. And walking upright. And your bed. And unclogged pores. And the Real Housewives. Despite your differences, you need this friend. Because even though you wouldn’t dare drink liquor off of someone else’s body or blow off a week of work to go to Burning Man, you sure as hell love hearing about it.

4. Your parents…duh!

It’s 2014. Rent is high and you wagered your future savings account on a college education, so you’ll likely have kids of your own before you’re fully, totally, for real, 100% off of your parents’ dime. But with you living on your own, and paying most of your own bills, you have the opportunity to befriend your parents who are finally not so busy…well, parenting you. If you’re like me, your parents have eased up around you since you entered adulthood. Your mom gabs with you as girlfriends do. Your dad attempts to get away with slightly inappropriate — but still nauseating — jokes about your mom looking hot, or my own dad’s new favorite: “ratchet.” The cool thing about your parents is that they lived through their twenties once too! I know, it’s novel. They had entire lives before we came along. And although they probably can’t relate to your anxiety about the proper amount of time to wait before returning a text, their insight on navigating this perplexing time is invaluable. Also, in most cases, there is literally no one on the Earth that loves you more than your parents. So listen to their advice. Well, hear it. Resent it. Ignore it. Text your bestie and mock it. Fail miserably. Revisit initial advice. And then listen to it.

5. Ride or dies, Day Ones, BFFFLs, or whatever you want to call them friends

We’re here, guys! Your besties. The creme de la creme of friendships. Your besties are your friends who have been there through it all. Ugly cry faces. Fad diets. Losers, lookers, and loves of your life. Job interviews. More job interviews. Still job interviews. Binge-drinking-induced sickness. Successes. Disappointments. Vacations. Those memories reserved for wedding toasts, and those reserved for a very cold day in hell because that shit is not getting repeated. EVER. They’ve seen it all, and if you had any sort of boundaries left between the two of you you might feel embarrassed about some of the moments they’ve been privy to. But you don’t, because you know that judgement does not exist within the walls of your broken in union. They give it to you straight, and you definitely need that. They tell you to never ever change because you’re amazing and perfect and “literally, the best,” but that you should also probably stop falling asleep in cabs (thanks, Jen.) These are the few friends that’ll be around far past your twenties, and thirties, and so on to whatever age you find yourself #blessed enough to live to.

Along the way there are a few uncategorizable friends who join your journey. Gym friends, fur friends, bodega clerk friends, to name a few. No matter where they fall on the friend-type spectrum, you’re lucky to have ‘em. So stop reading this, and go call one. (Just not the crazy one, okay? Unless it’s Saturday night. Then you should definitely call her because you’re reading this on a Saturday night.)

Taking Shape, One Lesson at a Time

“We’re all traveling through time, together, every day of our lives.” – About Time, 2013

I have a confession, dear readers. Although I was an active participant on Twitter, I hadn’t actually seen any of the front-running Oscar films this year. A little shameful, I know, but I don’t get to the movie theater much and to be honest — I’m kind of a TV girl. There are a few movies from 2013, however, that — though snubbed by the Academy — I felt were noteworthy. Among them, Richard Curtis’s About Time.

I went into it a little half-heartedly, expecting a kitschy rom com with a corny, awkwardly-executed time travel element (my best friend/viewing partner and I agreed the trailer did not do this film justice) — but I’ll suspend reality for any movie with Bill Nigh and killer British coast scenery, so I swallowed the rental fee and hit play.

There are a few times that I relish being wrong — and this was one of them. What appeared to be a film about romance interrupted by one man’s fumbling through self discovery turned out to be one of the most tender, stirring movies I’ve seen in a while. I was so moved by it, I actually ended up watching it twice in one day. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I rarely watch movies twice.

I won’t summarize the movie, because search engines exist and I’m firmly against spoilers, but one of protagonist Tim’s moments of illumination occurs when he realizes that he cannot go back and relive a day in his deep past without drastically altering the future. Tim discovers that the successes and joys of his present are directly linked to the missteps and losses of his past — altering a single thread in the tapestry will cause life as he knows it to unravel. It seems a simple truth, but watching Tim navigate the difficult decision to forego erasing past damages in order to preserve his own journey — and destination — struck me.

Obviously, those of us living in 2014 do not have the ability (that I know of) to physically travel back in time — but we certainly do enough of it in other ways. Visiting old stomping grounds, reading old letters (I guess text messages, or emails is more appropriate), clinging to old friends — we’re under the impression that people and scenery are what create time, and if we simply dip ourselves into an environment, we’ll adjust with those around us to comfortably resemble that which once was. Except that’s not how it works, is it? Like Tim, we’ve all discovered in sometimes painful ways that you can’t attempt to recreate your past without reshaping your present — and future.

I’ve struggled recently with futile attempts to revisit things of the past. As I’m sure a lot of people my age do, I often wonder: what if I move back to my college town? Will making friends be easier, like it was then? What if I stay with my parents for a bit? Will I feel taken care of, and less financially unstable? What if I revisit an old relationship? Will I feel supported and secure like I once did? Jay Gatsby did a lot of the same pondering. He thought if he “fix[ed] everything the way it was before” that he and Daisy would be young, in love, and unaltered by the five years that transpired between their romance and his present. Well, if you’ve finished The Great Gatsby, you know that his attempts to annul history didn’t work out so well.

What I’ve come to discover is this: we can’t erase the knowledge that our past experiences have earned us. We can’t unlearn what disappointment has taught us about our friends, and what heartache has taught us about our partners. We can’t extinguish the dreams that failure has conjured up in our hearts. We can’t dry the thirst that our pasts have created in us to want more, see more, and deserve more — and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to see what life has given to us, taken from us, and shown to us and allow it cause us to choose the present, and hope for the future.

What a beautiful, complicated past I have — I wouldn’t change a thing.

Unlocking the Secret to First Days

In addition to decently long legs, full eyelashes, and a lack of athletic coordination, a general disdain for “first days” is something I undoubtedly inherited from my mother. My mom is a teacher and almost ritually went — and still goes — without sleep before the inaugural day of a new semester. Without interruption, K-12 (well, college, really), I spent every night before the first day of school awake and jittery about what the following day would bring. This is due in part to my tendency toward anxious behavior, and in part to my heinous track record when it comes to first days.

Memories of my first day of Kindergarten are lost on me — also, uninteresting to anyone who didn’t raise me. So I’ll skip that part. (Just know that floral patterned overalls were worn, and they were adored.)

Here, we arrive at middle school — the most infamous of all my first days. It’s no secret that middle school really, really sucks. On top of having no idea what’s happening to your body, and feeling the most insecure you’ve ever felt, everyone else also feels the most insecure they’ve ever felt, producing a kill-or-be-killed social contract that even effortlessly cool, braces-free kids can’t overcome.

I prepared for my first day of middle school like any other 11-year-old girl who watched Lizzie McGuire religiously did: by scraping the aisles of Claire’s boutique for locker accessories. In case you didn’t grow up in or around the nineties — locker. accessories. were. everything. Locker accessories were your way of introducing yourself to your peers without having to actually introduce yourself to your peers. This important series of ornaments showed off your interests, housed tiny photos of your pre-middle school BFF’s, and flaunted how stylishly you could arrange a mass of “flare” that appeared to have been vomited on by some sort of glitter monster. I was so preoccupied with this essential preparatory step that I overlooked two important details: one, I was starting middle school, and middle school was going to suck, and two, I had no idea how to properly open a combination lock.

The first day of sixth grade was off to a decent start. My mom was a fairly well-liked teacher on the same hall as me — which seems very uncool now, but at the time I felt it gave me a considerable advantage in popularity. After morning classes we all hit our (extravagantly decorated) lockers and grabbed the drawstring sacks that held what I believe to be the ultimate middle school equalizer: gym clothes. Gym clothes were altogether foreign until middle school. Also altogether foreign until middle school: armpit sweat — which, cruelly and coincidentally, could not have stood out on a single color more than it did on the yellowy-grey hue of our “D.D.M.S. P.E.” t-shirts. Gym clothes were tight on the chubby girls, unflatteringly loose on the skinny girls, and the purest form of evil a sixth grader could encounter.

On television, locker room scenes are always portrayed as either a glamorous moment of girlfriends’ gabbin’ over lip gloss and CoverGirl pressed powder, or a hotbed of hidden panties and pranks involving maxi pads. If there’s one piece of advice I can hand down to younger generations: DO NOT BELIEVE THIS LIE. The locker room is neither of these things. In the locker room, you have about six minutes to re-apply deodorant, spritz a little water on your face, and smooth out the crease your elastic created in your perfectly flat-ironed hair — you have about six minutes to do all of this while strategically hiding the fact that your mom has not yet allowed you to purchase a padded bra with an underwire.

Sadly, I did not have an older, wiser me to pass down these truths. I believed the lies of Clarissa Explains It All and My So Called Life (as you can see, 90’s television played an integral role in my preteen disillusionment). I took my sweet time after that first day of gym, even rinsing off in the shower — I know, I was etching my name onto the lame girls’ hall of fame. By the time I got back to my locker, the bell had already rung, and I was surely going to be late.

I began desperately spinning the wheel on my combination lock in hopes of making it to class before roll was called. In high school, being late to class gave you a mysterious, aloof reputation that was desired by most — but in middle school, being late meant you stood out. And nobody wanted to stand out. As I continued to try and fail at cracking the lock, I noticed that my mom and another teacher were sitting at the end of the hallway, watching me, silently giggling, shouting “Hey, Stevens! Get to class!” Now, if you don’t know my mom, this may seem cruel and definitely unusual — but at the time it was all she could do to try and alleviate some of the pressure I was so obviously feeling on my first day. It was all she could do to subtly remind me that the awkward, embarrassing things that happen to you in middle school are eventually forgotten, and honestly quite silly. In my mind, however, it was all she could do to amplify my anxiety, causing my hands to shake and making opening a combination lock 100% impossible. I finally abandoned my mission and headed to class without my books, bag of soggy gym clothes in tow. I was so flustered that when my teacher called my name, I could barely muster a “here” over the lump in my throat. I was sweaty, rushed, embarrassed — it was my first day, and it was not going as planned.

That night, I told my mom I was sick and wouldn’t be able to attend school the next day. She didn’t believe me (I feel the need to assure you that I have a wonderful, tender, most loving mother), so I forced myself to throw up and she let me stay home the following morning. It was a disaster of a first day — of a first week — but here’s what I remember most:

After hearing of the day’s events, my older brother marched upstairs and knocked on my bedroom door. As kids, my brother and I were quite close — pal’s to the end with no hormones to interfere. But the years since he had started middle school were tense. They were tense, and tough, and we were at odds more than we were at each other’s side. But that night, my brother came into my room and told me he was sorry to hear about my bad first day. He assured me that I would make friends — strange, weird, prepubescent friends — who would endure the middle school years along with me. Most important, he said, I would always have him.

My first days since have been less dramatic, but equally anxiety inducing. The start of something new is never easy — it’s always scary, it’s always unknown, it’s always lonely. But of all the uncomfortable first days I’ve had, there’s always a day — sometimes a few days in, sometimes a few weeks — where you just know you’ve made it past the awkward adjustment, and you belong.