Writer’s Block

I went to the liquor store after work today. I wanted to buy something for my sister and I to have for my brother’s college family weekend in Connecticut. (You know, necessities.)

I always find myself observing everyone around me whenever I go to the liquor store. If I see an old person who looks slightly helpless, I wonder if they had just lost their spouse who used to do the shopping. If I see someone standing over the white wine selection with a furrowed brow, I wonder what part of their day drove them to try something new.

It’s silly, it’s probably all in my head, but it’s why I take 10 minutes in the store when I say I will take five.

Today, I was standing behind a man wearing blue scrubs. He had a 4-pack of hard ciders in his hands. He smiled at me with what seemed to be his last bit of energy for the day and I wondered why he was there. Did he have a hard day, and needed something to take the edge off? Or maybe he had a good one, and he felt like a little bit of a cheers were in order.

I hoped for the latter.

When I got to the front of the line and set down the craft beer variety pack I had picked out, the cashier asked to see my ID. He studied it carefully, glancing between the picture I routinely despise and my actual face.

My license still says “UNDER 21” along the top because I got it renewed in Massachusetts when I was 20 so that it would be ready in Delaware on my 21st birthday. (Again, necessities.) Sometimes that makes me look a little suspicious, so whoever is ringing me up usually takes extra precautions to make sure I didn’t hand them a fake.

Sure enough, he ran my ID through the little scanner and waited until the green light flickered. During this time, my face had fallen into a bit of a worried state. Even though I know my ID is valid, it still makes me squirm as if I were doing something wrong.

“You have to get this fixed,” said the man, as he finished the transaction.

“Yeah, I really should,” I agreed. “I got my license renewed before I turned 21 and have never bothered to change it.”

“Well, you should really get it fixed.”

When I left the store, all I wanted to do was write. I wanted to write about how I have some sort of Resting Confused Face that people seem always seem to detect. I wanted to write about how I am always too quick to explain myself to people, even strangers.

Then I thought back to the man in the blue scrubs and I thought, “eh, it doesn’t matter.”

And that is why it has been so hard for me to write lately. Everything ends with the same resounding feeling that it just… doesn’t matter.

I sit behind my keyboard, and I let the words pour out, but these days writing is more of a private catharsis than anything. I don’t know why, exactly, but something about sharing my thoughts feels off when there is so much going on in the world.

And this isn’t going to get political, although it damn well could. It’s just that everyday it’s something new to worry about, to feel sick to your stomach over, or to feel guilty about ignoring. With each passing thing that happens, I feel less inclined to say what I want to.

But that is not the mind set to have. Your words matter, my words matter, everyone’s words matter. I didn’t go to school to write only to be too afraid to share my work, and I sure as hell don’t want to say silent while You Know Who sends tweet after tweet from his toilet.

(Whoops, it got political.)

So, this is more or less a promise to myself that I won’t refrain from saying what I truly want to. More of a promise to share what I want to without worrying about how it may be perceived.

Because sometimes, I’ve realized, the only person who can give you a good kick in the ass is yourself.

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In Case You Were Wondering

Over the winter, I posted a Snapchat story of my dogs. (So out of character for me, I know.) They always fall asleep at the same time every day, and I couldn’t resist snapping a shot. I posted the pic, put my phone down, and went back to staring at the job boards that had been consuming my free time and burning my retinas.

When I picked up my phone some time later, I saw that a friend of mine had sent a snap back with the caption “why are you posting in the middle of the day, do you even have a job?”

Now I will admit what happened next is rather dramatic, but keep in mind I was extremely burnt out, and I immediately burst into tears. Even my sweet little angel pups woke up from their naps and looked at me like honey, get it together.

I had just worked three doubles in a row at the restaurant and I was due back in a few hours for a dinner shift. When I wasn’t serving, I was at my computer pouring over job postings, cold emailing potential connections, and drafting cover letters.

Yet, to the naked eye, I didn’t even have a job.

I was beyond frustrated. I didn’t understand how I could be so physically and mentally exhausted but have all of my efforts feel so incredibly fruitless.

From that point on, I began to become paranoid about everything I did. Did the mothers I ran into at the gym go home and ask their kids why I was on an elliptical at 2pm and not at an office? Did my former classmates who saw me in all of my aproned glory wonder what I was doing with my life? I couldn’t tell if people were judging me for not having a full-time job or if this was completely in my head.

Either way, I didn’t want to find out.

So, I tried to go off the radar as much as I could. Tone down my social media use and double down on the job search as much as my free time would allow. There were more than a few days when my mother would try to get me to close the lid of my laptop and take a morning off.

“You’re going to give yourself an ulcer,” she would say, watching as each job lead led me to a dead end.

For several months straight, I felt like I was caught in a revolving door of interviews, rejections, and then starting the process all over again. The first “no” I received felt like a huge blow, but I slowly began to feel more resilient with the second, third, and so on.

I knew a yes was around the corner, I just had to be patient.

The thing is, is that I had to remind myself that I always knew a yes was around the corner. I just didn’t know which corner. I completely understood sophomore year what it was going to mean for me to declare my English major and journalism minor. It would mean explaining my career goals over and over, convincing people I was not wasting my parents’ money, and my studies not being taken seriously, even if I was reading and writing until the sun came up.

I was alright with all of that, though, because I knew this field was the only one that would make me happy. At the end of the day, it is the only career path I foresee for myself, so why run away from that feeling because another major promised a higher potential salary?

I didn’t care about money then, and I don’t now. Of course I want to be able to provide a comfortable life for myself, but money has never and will never be the driving factor in my career path.

Not everyone can be very understanding of that mentality, however. In fact, a lot of people felt like they could fill in the blanks for me before I even had a chance to.

I remember there was one night at the bar last year when an acquaintance came up to me to while I was waiting to buy a drink. He asked me how I had been, and I said that I was happy that my finals were over.

“Wait, aren’t you an English major?” he asked, staring at me as if I was an extra hard sudoku puzzle.

“Yes…?”

“You have finals? What even are they, like spelling tests?” he laughed. Shockingly enough, I didn’t find that comment to be very funny.

I may or may not have called him an asshole and told him that he could pass the vodka soda he assumed I wanted to the business major to his left, but you weren’t there. So we can pretend I gracefully bowed out of the conversation and strutted away, right?

Anyway, the moral of the story here is that I understood from Day 1 that this would be a challenge. I tried not to be too sensitive about what other people said, but sometimes I did break when I felt I was already being bent a little too far.

Although I am thrilled to say that I have finally found a wonderful position in my field, I can’t address that excitement without acknowledging that it has not been easy. I am still so grateful I was able to choose the path that I did, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life thus far.

The blood, sweat, and tears – at risk of sounding totally cliche – have all been worth it, because these feelings of humility and appreciation have taught me a lot about myself. Even though my first instinct was always to sugar coat my situation until it resembled something professional, there is no running away from the fact that I wasn’t being true to myself.

Yes, I chose what some may consider an unrealistic major and I don’t regret it. No, I did not have a job lined up after college. And yes, I waitressed my way through life until I got the one I wanted. That’s it, that’s the whole story.

And it feels really good to say it.

American Horror Story: Awkward

About five years ago, I went to my first party. At 17 years old, I felt ancient. I was so worried about being a great student and getting into my dream school, I forgot to make time to do normal teenager stuff.

So, I decided to give the party scene a go. I wasn’t ready to drink, so I would show up to every party dead sober and no one was the wiser. At that very first party I stumbled up the stairs, because of who I am as a generally clumsy person, and a cute guy who I didn’t know very well caught my arm.

“Woah, you’re having a good night!” he said.

I just laughed and ran up the stairs. (This was my first party, you really think I was going to throw flirting into the mix?)

I guess my awkward sobriety paid off, however, because I was invited to another party the following weekend. It was a Halloween party, and I was pretty excited.

First of all, when my parents asked where I was going, I told them I was going to a dance party. A DANCE PARTY! As if I was invited by Mary Kate and Ashley themselves to go drink fruit punch, sing about pizza, and engage in other wholesome activities.

(If at this point you have scrolled to the top of this story to confirm that I was 17 years old, yes, you read that right. I was such a late bloomer I had to pay fees.)

I showed up the Halloween/Dance/Definitely-Not-A-Dance-Party Party in my super cool costume that I thought for sure was going to be a hit. I decided to go as a Legends of the Hidden Temple contestant.

I was wearing my official Legends of the Hidden Temple team shirt. (I was a Red Jaguar, obv.) I wore khaki shorts, white asics, and to complete the look: elbow and knee pads. A friend had to talk me out of wearing a helmet.

When we finally got to the party, every girl was dressed in tiny, bodycon dresses adorned with various accessories. A lot of the girls had already taken off their cat ears or sailor hats, so virtually no one was in costume.

And there I was. With elbow pads on.

I thought I was going to pass out, which would have been totally fine because all of my joints would have been more than protected by all of the padding. What’s worse, is that no one even knew what I was dressed as.

The night was full of “so, what are you?”

“Uh, Legends of the Hidden Temple.”

“Oh.”

Also, every party I had ever been to up until this point had snacks. I literally did not eat dinner because I thought, don’t fill up, there will be snacks!

There were no snacks. There was a lot vodka disguised as Poland Springs, but no snacks.

Later on in the night someone saw me take a big sip of a nearly full water bottle and squealed with excitement.

“I didn’t know you were like that, Alexa!”

In a desire to really drive the point home that I was a nerd, I said “oh, it’s actually just water.”

Everyone sort of just walked away from me at that point and I don’t blame them. I had no business being there. I was absolutely not cool enough to be there, I had no desire to drink alcohol, and Oh My God was I starving.

I wandered downstairs to find my friends, only to find that the Halloween Party had turned into a Makeout Party. Shit.

I immediately spun around, looking for the nearest door out. For some reason, my instinct was not to turn around and go up the stairs I had just come from, it was to escape. I panicked and opened the nearest door. It was a closet, and the couple making out behind it did not appreciate the exposure. SHIT!

I finally found my best friend, who thankfully told me it was time to head out. We beelined out of there, internally screaming as the rest of the car gushed about their nights.

I looked down at my khakis. I couldn’t get over it. I am, clearly, still not over it.

When I watch Mean Girls now, I no longer have sympathy for Cady Heron when she dresses up as a vampire bride. She has my complete and utter empathy.

So, what have we learned from this story? Well, if you are either of my parents, you have learned that I did not go to a dance party.

And if you are neither of those people, you have learned that I am not the cool girl at parties. Or the bar. Or anywhere, for that matter. And its okay if you are not the cool one, either. We have fun in our own way, right?

No matter how much I might look like I know what I am doing, I will always be the Legends of the Hidden Temple girl on the inside. And, honestly, this bodes well for the rest of you, because my weirdness just makes you all look even cooler.

Wait a minute… is that why you guys keep me around?

Be Optimistic, & Smile!

Every single year, I think that New Year’s Eve will be the best night ever. I always think of it as a great excuse to wipe the slate clean, get all dolled up, and go out with my nearest and dearest.

Last year, as midnight steadily approached, I walked away from my coupled-up crowd of friends and sat next to the bouncer. I rested my head on the shiny red booth and watched the big screen as Ryan Seacrest excitedly announced it was 2016.

No kiss, cute dress, spilled drinks, etc.

I then did a few laps to make it look like I was looking for somebody, biding my time until the lights finally came on. I wanted to get out of there, but with surge pricing, Ubers were hundreds of dollars.

It took me 2 hours to find a ride home. Well, it took me 2 hours to steal someone else’s cab in front of the Hard Rock Cafe.

As my best friend and I trudged through Boston’s cobblestones in our heels, I came to the conclusion that this was all my fault. After all, what was I expecting? New Years Eve is never what I think it is going to be. In fact, I think I have started off the past 3 years claiming that next year will be different.

The thing is, is that I will probably get all dressed up this year and do it all again. Why? Because I can’t help but be optimistic.

I am not the type of person who is optimistic to the point where they don’t let anyone else ever be sad. That’s not me. I’m just optimistic to the point where I probably trust people I shouldn’t, get my hopes up for things that definitely won’t happen, and believe people when they say they’re telling the truth.

I like to think that even though the past few years have been complete and utter shit shows, this could be the best New Year’s Eve ever! I like to think that even though there are about 17 red flags, maybe he’s different! I like to think that when I pull through the drive thru at McDonald’s, the ice cream machine won’t be broken!

Keeping the glass half full keeps me sane. Optimism is what gets me through the day.

I honestly can’t think of the last time something I was optimistic about actually panned out, but the idea of it has always been good enough for me. I like ideas. They’re not real, but they could be. And if they end up not being real, oh well. It was just an idea.

It is possible that I should be more cautious with what I choose to be optimistic about. I have been wronged enough times by enough people to know what it feels like to be cynical, but that is simply not a good look on me. I can’t even count the amount of times I have been so blissful in my hopes that I was completely blinded by the ugly truth.

And it really sucks to be disillusioned.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when others take advantage of this mentality, however. A lot of people mistake my optimism and my kindness for weakness. Long story short: people think I’m a pushover.

People ask me for favors because they know I will say yes. And I will say yes, because I would hope they would do me a favor if I ever needed them. Kind of like a favor ATM, you know? Except that doesn’t happen. That person just goes and tells another person that I’m too nice to say no, and the cycle continues.

Guys do this to me all the time. I’m too busy trying to come off as a laid back girl that any shred of romance goes down the drain. I try not to act like a girl who would care too much if you take three days to answer my text, but I care. I’ll just try really hard not to say it and hope you won’t do it again.

I am trying to work on that, though. I am trying to stand up for myself more and get away from being the pushover people think I am. All I need to do is figure out a way to be hopeful without coming off as naïve.

My first step began last Saturday, when I proudly screened a 1 am “you up?” text in favor of Law & Order: SVU. (If you can’t text me at a decent hour then I will be spending my nights with Detective Elliot Stabler from now on, thank you very much.)

The next step after that is to be realistic.

I will be honest, 2016 has not exactly been the year of the optimist. I definitely have to get real about the fact that my job search is not going to be a cakewalk, our next president is a reality TV star, and there is no Prince Charming to save me from it all.

Well, at least Leo got his Oscar. That does make me feel a little better.

2017 will be the year I learn to look on the bright side without having my head in the clouds. Maybe New Year’s Eve really will be the best night ever, even if it is spent on the couch with Chinese food and my two puppies.

And maybe, just maybe, it will be the year I finally get that McFlurry.

 

The One Where I Was Stranded in Santorini

Last winter, I studied abroad in Greece. I spent the bulk of my time in Athens, so a few of the other girls and I decided to stay an extra few days and island hop. I wanted to see the windmills, white houses, and Stavros from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

Mykonos was absolutely beautiful, but we went off season. In other words, we were just about the only Americans on the island. I didn’t think we would stand out too much, but I felt like a Kardashian in a convent.

We then hopped on a flight over to Santorini, where we checked into a cute little hotel by the water. The lady who worked at the front desk was relentlessly hospitable, making sure we each got a fresh white robe and french toast for breakfast.

Our plan was to take a bus to Oia to visit the Red Beach and watch the sunset. Little did we know, the bus we took would also be transporting the teenagers of Santorini home from high school. For clarification, being packed like sardines on a coach bus between a dozen 14-year-old Greek boys is as comfortable as it sounds.

After watching the sunset – and taking approximately one million panoramic photos of said sunset – we decided to head back to the hotel. We all wanted to experience the nightlife in Santorini, and excitedly started discussing what we were going to wear. As I contemplated which of my 17 crop tops I should try on, one of the girls started reading an email to us out loud.

“Our flight has been cancelled…” she said. “All of the country’s transportation is going on strike.”

Long story short: everything from taxis to airplanes would not be operating, and we would not be making our way back home.

All of us started calling our parents to let them know that we were now stranded in Santorini. Once I reached my father, I asked him what to do.

“It doesn’t seem like there is anything you can do,” he said. I was immediately helpless. My dad has a solution for everything, and this was the first time he truly did not have one.

Rough time for a learning lesson, eh?

We decided to pack our bags and get to the airport to try and make the last flight out. As we were waiting for the cab to arrive, the sweet front desk lady asked us if we wanted french toast in the morning.

We explained to her that due to the strike, we had to check out early. There would be no delightful brunches in bathrobes, because we would not be coming back.

“The country strikes on Thursdays,” she snickered. “You’ll be back.”

In that moment, my frustration boiled over. The fish out of water vibes I had been getting for the past month were no longer charming, they were exhausting. I was sick of feeling eyes on me wherever I went, and feeling like I wasn’t fit to be there.

“We’re not coming back,” I said, in a stern voice I definitely can’t pull off.

“Sure you will.”

“You know, this would never have happened if the whole country didn’t decide to go on strike,” I quipped.

I knew I should not have said that the second the words left my mouth. The lady whipped around and glared at me like I was pure evil. She went on and on about how the country is in financial ruin. It wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t their fault, who was I to blame them?

I felt bad for taking my stress out on this woman, as if my needing to get to class on Monday was anywhere near comparable to her country’s economic state. I was suddenly more eager to escape this uncomfortable exchange than the country itself.

When we finally got to the airport, we found out that there was one flight back to Athens… with four seats left. There were five of us.

We were going to have to pull straws to decide who would be making it on the plane. As we went around in a circle, pulling our fate, I had already accepted the fact that I would not be on that plane.

Pulling the short straw is kind of my brand.

Lo and behold, I was not one of the chosen ones. We decided that two would stay behind so that no one was left alone. The three other girls dashed to catch their flight, and my friend Lili and I sat at the gate on standby.

After about 10 minutes passed, the attendant at the gate received a call from one of the attendants on board. I ran to the desk like every girl in a rom-com who has tried to stop a plane from taking off with the guy she just realized she’s in love with.

He shook his head and told me there was no room for us, and I all but collapsed onto his desk.

“Sir, I don’t know what to do,” I said, my head resting defeatedly on the counter.

“There is one last ferry leaving tomorrow before the strike.”

“How long is that going to take, like a couple hours?”

“It’s 14 hours long, and it leaves at seven in the morning.”

I think I stared at him for about a full minute without saying anything before I accepted the fact that we needed to get on that boat. We would go back to the hotel, take a cab down to the dock at 5am, and hope for the best.

French Toast Lady was delighted to see me when I walked back into the hotel an hour later.

“I told you you’d be back,” she said. I had no comment.

Lili and I then briefed our parents and the girls, who were already in Athens at that point.

Right before we got in that cab to the dock the next morning, I sent one text message to everyone: “if you don’t hear from us for the next 14 hours, we made it on the boat.”

If there were to be an award given out to the most dramatic text ever sent, I would beat Meryl.

In the pitch black, we got on the last running ferry in Greece. And for 14 painfully Wi-Fi-free hours, we waited.

It was a stormy day and it was a rough ride. I was extremely seasick and hideously bored.

We considered buying a travel size Scrabble game from the little newsstand on the boat, but we realized it was all in Greek. Lili realized she had Pitch Perfect 2 on her laptop, which a group of elderly Greeks nearby did not enjoy one bit. I guess Anna Kendrick isn’t for everyone.

Eventually, at around 9pm, we made it. We quickly sprinted off the boat and into a coffee shop so we could jump on the wifi and tell everyone we were okay.

All transportation was shut down until midnight, so the girls had to hire a private limo to pick us up. They all burst into the gyro shop we were waiting in and hugged us like middle school girls who hadn’t seen each other since homeroom.

On the ride to Athens International, the girls told us that they were worried sick all day.

Apparently, there was no record of the ferry ever leaving the dock. For all everyone else knew, we were in danger. They begged the police to find out if the boat had left, but it took hours for any of them to provide a concrete answer. One of the girls even had a prayer circle going for us back in America.

That night, while staying at the Athens Holiday Inn, I ordered room service. When my cheeseburger and tall Heineken arrived at the door, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I was fine, everything was fine.

After we landed in Philadelphia, we did what anyone else would do: immediately met everyone at the bar. My friends told me that they laughed when they heard what had happened, because that would happen to me.

And after I clocked all of their heads together, I laughed, too. For someone who was struggling with the fact that I would soon have to graduate and become a real person, this series of unfortunate events felt like a triumph.

It sucked, but I did it. I could not believe I did it.

22: It’s Kind of, Sort of the Worst

Britney Spears’ pop ballad “Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman” came out in 2001. I was 7 years old. I remember listening to the song on my new-millennium-blue walkman in the backseat of our minivan and thinking, “this is so about me.”

I have since realized that Britney was not singing about why it was so unfair that my mother wouldn’t let me wear a rhinestone-encrusted halter top to school in December. I have also had the realization, at the ripe old age of 22, that this song is now finally so about me.

A week before my birthday this year, I was sitting in a booth at my beloved campus dive bar when a friend approached my table. She wished me an early happy birthday as her roommate stumbled up and stood beside her.

“Are you turning 22?” asked the friend. I didn’t know if she was leaning onto our table for stability or trying out a new power stance.

“Yes, I am!” I said.

With that, in a move that only a few too many vodka sodas would deem socially acceptable, she grabbed both of my wrists and looked dead into my eyes.

“Don’t do it, its terrible,” she said. “Just TERRIBLE!”

After she released me from her death grip, I sank low into my seat. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo & Juliet when he realizes he just killed himself for no reason. Who was this ominous tipsy girl and what was so bad about turning 22?

I spent that week dreading my birthday. Everyone I encountered during those seven days told me that this would be the least fun birthday ever.

I mentally formed a list of all of the cons of turning 22. I would no longer be twenty fun, and that was sitting at the top of the list. There isn’t anything punny about 22!

When my birthday rolled around, however, I ended up having a great day. I hoped that the good vibes would continue, and that is was not all downhill from there.

I have since had some time to get acquainted with this age, and I think I have figured out what everyone was warning me about.

I have realized that what’s so miserable about being 22 is the fact that you still kind of want to be 21. You want to justify taking bright purple shots of God-knows-what on a Tuesday just because everyone else is doing it, “it’s $2 Tuesdays!” You want to pretend you aren’t graduating because the real world is terrifying. And also because no one goes out on a Tuesday in the real world.

We’re not girls, not yet women.

Except that I totally am a woman, I just have not fully figured out how to be one. This all feels like I am giving the adult life a 12-month long trial run.

My mother got married to my father this age, and this number has always loomed over my head. Maybe I am little jaded by my notoriously unlucky track record, but I am nowhere near being ready to make such a commitment.

The other day I changed my mind approximately 5 times before I ordered my entree at a restaurant, and then ended up lamenting over the decision I made. I thought, no wonder I’m lost, I am indecisive about nearly every decision I am faced with.

And not to make a metaphor out of chicken piccata, but that’s what really sucks about being 22.

We can’t flake out on this trial run, this is all really happening. We are beginning to make real, adult decisions while learning how to shed the behavior we grew to know and love these past few years. We are suiting up and entering the work force, and then retiring to our childhood bedrooms. We are in limbo.

But with all of that being said, it is important to have a little perspective on the situation. Yes, we are older than 21, but we are also a hell of a lot younger than 50. This is still an incredibly young age, and even though you are going to have moments where you show your youth, the stakes are pretty low.

You will still get in silly fights with your family, try every filter Snapchat has to offer, and text your ex. You will have a lot to learn, and you will make mistakes, but the important part is trusting the process.

So, cheers to my fellow 22-year-olds. It’s kind of terrible! But it’s not the worst!

And at least we can wear rhinestone-encrusted halter tops year-round, right?