Warning: Cliche post-graduation topics may occur in near future

“I graduated 365-something days ago;
Twelve months ago, I walked across the Moody church stage;
One year ago, I finished my last finals.”

Sound familiar? Yes, every single person I graduated with is probably saying versions of these things right about now, just as the 2012 graduates did last year and this year’s graduates will do a year from now.

Then you add one more line to the graduation nostalgia:

“This first year out, it’s hard.”

It’s rendered near cliche when you’re in this age group (or listening to this age group), isn’t it? And, quite honestly, it’s why I’ve had such a hard time justifying writing about some of the things I might otherwise write about in this pie slice of twenty-somethingness: like learning to manage time when classwork isn’t a constant priority, figuring out how to cook for one, budgeting (kind of), and dealing with the deep shift in how our social circles function — and the loneliness that shift sometimes brings.

Because it’s already been said. All of it, every possible iteration, has been said, hasn’t it?. Or maybe it’s just that, no one wants to hear how life is just really hard right after you graduate.

If they’ve already heard it, people don’t want to read about it again, right? After all, life isn’t supposed to be easy. You shouldn’t complain after you already complained about how stressful the last year of college was. You just sound lazy and unmotivated and whiny and unaware of your privilege and why aren’t you better at being an adult yet?

Suck it up, Jenna.

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The voices in my head keep telling me if no one wants to read it (according to me), then there’s no use writing it.

But every so often I come to the point, finally, where I might be able to say: screw that. I want to write about it.

I want to tell you how hard I’m finding a lot of this. I want to say it because I need to say it, because it’s true, and because I need to find ways to talk about some of the harder points where it doesn’t deteriorate into a stream of whining. And then, I also want to have acknowledged the rough so that I have a context to write about how wonderful it also is… sometimes.

But that every so often hasn’t always coincided with times when I’m actually keeping the blog more like a blog — and less like a yearly update spot.

In fact, this is probably the first.

So maybe I will. I should, right? I should write. And, while I’m sure that it’s problematic how often I discuss what I’m going to write about (instead of writing it), these are my concessions to myself. Writing about how hard I find it to write, about writer’s block, about the things I tell myself that keep me from it — this is my allowance to the part of me that wants to apologize to you. My gift to the people-pleaser in me.

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So I’m going to try to write about all of this wild post-graduation world. I’m going to let myself admit why I find it hard, which will unfortunately mean admitting to some of my main failings. Like, how I’m absolutely terrible at routine.  And how one of the biggest (but annoyingly subtle and hard to pinpoint) challenges was transitioning from a college life that was, by the end, largely about just getting through (and passing).

I might then be able to tell you about what scares me sometimes: that they say your twenties are about laying foundations. And how I really hope that’s a REALLY poor analogy because I do NOT feel prepared to be laying down what will support the rest of my life.

If I tell you ahead of time that I might sometimes dwell on these hard bits and pieces of my admittedly pretty decent life, then maybe I can feel less guilty indulging once in awhile.

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And if I warn you that I might go there, might get a little bit cliche, then maybe I can let let myself write about how I just can’t seem to figure out how to keep my apartment clean.

 




 

Six (un)secrets you’d know if you really knew me


One (Blog)After a  year out of college, I still sleep remarkably like a college student. The only thing holding me back from staying up till 3 is that I have to get up at six. (Midnight still happens far too often.)

Sometimes, like this past week, I can blame it on freelance design work. But even then, it still has a lot to do with a proclivity to be far more motivated at 10 pm than I am at, say, 6 or 7 pm. (Translation: deeply ingrained procrastination that I blame on college.)


Two (Blog)I actively dislike reading Jane Austen. This is for the very normal reason that I haven’t particularly enjoyed any of her novels (read: not getting past the first couple of chapters despite trying several of them multiple times). But it is ALSO because not-liking-Austen fooled me into thinking I didn’t like any “grown-up” books made me feel like there was something wrong with me as a reader, and I subsequently read very, very little for a few years. (Because  apparently classics are the only grown up books? It wasn’t something I’d actually thought through.) It took picking up a random bestseller at the airport bookstore to fix this.

I know this is not technically Jane Austen’s fault, and I fully intend to give her work another try in the future, but I’d really rather it be her fault than proof of my own ignorance.


Speaking of ignorance, I once asked my mother if I could use the top of the stove and the inside at the same time.

No, I will not tell you how old I was. All you need to know is I have since learned how to cook.


I have ridiculously delayed reactions to a lot of the kinds of things other people cry over immediately. This is most evident when someone moves away, and everyone else is crying right away and I’m not – until a week later when I fully realize that someone just moved away.


I’m terrible at routine. I just don’t have very many of them. Morning routines, evening routines, right after work routines. I don’t even take public transit the same way every day. I don’t know what it is about the way my brain works or my personality that keeps me from setting routines well, but it is a very big pain.

It is also why I keep my vitamins at my work desk: I would never take them otherwise.


SixI’m in the middle (or beginning or end) of six books right now, and it is consistently taking every bit of my willpower not to start more.

And if I started a seventh book within an hour of writing that, I would not tell you. I would also not tell you if I had been pleased to find that it is only a 100 page book, and therefore I am already 16% through it. I mean, if it were true, that is.

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Twitterature: Ahead-of-the-game April

And in some wonderfully fun news (or perhaps incredibly boring news, for everyone but me), I’m ahead of my reading goal for the year!

 

Bread and Wine Shauna Niequist

Bread and Wine CoverEverything I have to say has been said in every other review I’ve seen. In short, this was wonderful, I desperately want to read it against sometime and mark my favorite bits that time through, and I want to make some of these recipes. Additionally, Shauna made me crave a life that does hospitality better. Every time I set it down I was left wanting to invite people over immediately, feed them, love them.

And I did, at one point, entirely because this book reminded me how much I do want people in my house — and that I shouldn’t be waiting forever for a better decorated, less janky, or even cleaner space.

This book took me awhile to get through for a few reasons. One, I’m still getting accustomed again to keeping up with physical books in addition to Kindle ones (and this book is STUNNING in hardcover). And two, there were some many bits that I wanted to somehow savor, remember, or mark. I’ve had to learn to just keep reading — to realize that I can always come back to it!

 

Protector of the Small Quartet: First Test,
Page,
Squire,
& Lady Knight Tamora Pierce

           first test coverLAdyKnight CoverPage CoverSquire Cover

Have I mentioned that I don’t consider myself to be a re-reader? I’m not, but I’m battling against that these days — both by acknowledging, as above with Niequist, that whatever lovely bit I just read is something I can come back to if I allow for rereading, but also by letting myself pick up old books and consider them just as worthy as new ones (sometimes).

Enter one of my favorite YA fantasy series from  my junior high years (or possibly late elementary. I wish I’d always had goodreads!). Tamora Pierce has no lack of good books out there, a good number of them in the same world of Tortall. In addition to this quartet, the Song of the Lioness quartet and the Immortals quartet each take place prior, the Beka Cooper trilogy takes place quite a bit before, and the Daughter of the Lioness duo takes place after. And yes, I know you didn’t really need to know  all that in a short review, but it’s my way of telling you how much I love Pierce’s world building, because I have read and loved the often- magical world in all of these, even the last two sets which I read in the last couple of years.

Protector of the Small follows Kel between her 10th and 19th years as she trains for her knight shield. 10 years ago, the first woman in Tortall’s recent history earned her shield –while disguised as a man. Her success prompted a law change to allow girls to train as pages and squires to earn their shields, but in ten years, no girls went for it — until Keladry of Mindelan. The quartet follows Kel through her journey to become a knight — and then be one — as she proves to the kingdom that she’s just as good as the boys.

Pierce does so well at writing such a great variety of female heroines. I don’t see myself in Kel (at all!) but I still love her, and find myself in the other strong women throughout her writings. And it’s never at the expense of the men. There is a wonderful tearing down of cultural misogyny throughout, but it’s never met with any misandry, but instead is balanced with plenty of strong, well developed male characters.

I’m sure these have their faults. It isn’t the best writing of YA (as Nicole @ Infusion of Wit points out, these were written for teenagers pre-Harry Potter!) and they even drag a very little bit, especially on reread. They are definitely older YA with all it’s limitations and pitfalls, but they are also all that I find wonderful in quality fantasy YA: extended, consistent world-building,well developed characters, and magic.

 

 

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess Jen Hatmaker

7 CoverIn honor of a mutiny of excess, I’ll try to keep this one a little bit shorter. Jen Hatmaker takes seven months and fasts in seven different areas, one for each. She spent one month with just seven items of clothing, one eating only seven foods, got rid of 7 things a day for another (and quite a bit more), and so on with similar concepts in areas of waste, spending, media, and stress.

Although I have no intention of anything as drastic as these month long fasts, this was inspiring to actually be decluttering, something I’m working through more now (and will hopefully keep up!).

 

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I’m realizing that this may not be the best way for me to keep up with my reading on the blog. Why? Because, unexpectedly, I have more to say about the books I read than the original Twitter-like concept allows (clearly).

On the bright side, with this April post I’m caught up on them for a couple of weeks. And I love all of the books I’m reading right now, so it’s a good time to be rethinking how I do books here. After all, I’m still just figuring all of this out.

Besides, I have really got to be braver about tackling less books and more life. So, here’s to what’s to come.

Twitterature: March


It will be painfully obvious quite soon that I only take the premise of the Twitterature link up at face value: these are definitely more than 140 characters long. Be warned and read on.

Can you imagine that soon I might get to write about books I read more recently than two months ago? Yeah, me neither. (Maybe that’ll be the day my proportions of fiction to non-fiction will be less lopsided. HA.)

Anyways. Here’s my reads for the month of March:

SavingFrancescaCoverSAVING FRANCESCA
Melina Marchetta

Honestly, it’s only been a  month, but my memory of the details here are clouded. I do know that I loved this book. It follows an Australian teenage girl as she deals with starting a new school (which happens to be a boys school in its first year of enrolling girls — severely limiting her options for friends), figures out if who she was with her old group of domineering friends is who she actually is, and handles a family falling apart from her mother’s plunge into depression. Real issues, good issues, hard issues take precedence, but teenage angst and romance and drama still find their realistic place (because high school.) I’ll definitely be reading more Marchetta.

Hyperbole CoverHYPERBOLE AND A HALF
 
Allie Brosh

Oh my, Allie Brosh is wonderful. Like multitudes of others, I found this wonderful woman’s work through her blog, and like multitudes of others, had lamented at how infrequent updates were and how little content was available.

Which is really one of the big mysteries of the internet, when one of the most popular blogs happens to be one that rarely updates and doesn’t have a ton on it. (Rendering all blogging advice completely useless, right?)

So when I found out there was a book, I was happy. And when sweet boyfriend bought me that book (before I caved and treated myself, which would have been inevitable (and I probably just went ahead and treated myself to a different book instead))  I was thrilled. Glossy colored pages with every story different color pages, I tried to space this out as best I could. I only mildly succeeded.

Last note: Brosh’s “essays” on her experience with depression were powerful tools to (at least better) understand the experiences of those close to me also living with it. I recommend them, as long as you don’t mind learning through comic.

The Lunar Chronicles: CINDER,
SCARLET,
& CRESS
Marissa Meyer (WINTER releases in a year)

Oh these books. I like them significantly. Cyborg teenager in a Cinderella retelling (and then Little Red and Rapunzel in the sequels), with wonderful call backs to the fairy tales, but without a rigid need to stick to exacts? Wonderful ingredients. And the outcome is quite nice to.

Now, when I read books like this I pay very little attention to finer points of writing or plot or chatacter quality. As I move more and more into reviewing everything I read, this might change. But for now, what you need to know is that all I care about is how content I was reading these. How absolutely pulled along I was. How much I hated finding out that the final installment of the quartet comes out in TWO-THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN.

So, you know, yeah. Read these if you like YA, re-tellings, futuristic scifi fantasy, and great young female leads.

Held Evans CoverA YEAR OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD
Rachel Held Evans

I was taken in from the start. Actually, before the start — before reading the book, I read some of the critique and, based on the descriptive copy and Evan’s blog, already I could tell that the many of the main criticisms made little to no sense in light of what Evans seemed to be trying to do. So reviews like this made me curious:

“As I read the book, it became increasingly clear to me of one theme: God’s word was on trial. It was the court of Rachel Held Evans. She was the prosecution, judge, and jury. The verdict was out. And with authority and confidence, she would have the final word on womanhood.”
Trillia Newbell, desiringgod.org

(After finishing, I cannot fathom coming out of this book with this conclusion, unless you went in to it determined to. Which, I suppose, is entirely likely. Let’s just say I don’t agree with some 98% of that review.)

I’ve mentioned beforethat in my quest to read more and better this year, the number one change I needed to make was reading more non-fiction (and not just essays on the Hunger Games). This was the second I started (after The White Umbrella), and it was a wonderful way to start into non-fic. Highly narrative, and frequently dabbed with happy sarcasm (Well, the whole book was sort of one big wonderful sarcastic concept, so that’s a given), I enjoyed this the whole way through.

My favorite part: The delving into what Proverbs 31 was intended to be: not a checklist for the perfect evangelical woman, but a way for men to honor their wives and the women around them.

 

Attachments CoverATTACHMENTS
Rainbow Rowell

I’ve had Rowell’s most recent books on my too-read list ever since I noticed they’d gotten quite trendy, but Attachments was far more available from my library — so I started here. Attachments was perfect. There was an unusual set up  in the back-and-forth emails chapters, and the turn-of-the-century setting was a nice change of pace from my usual reads. Lincoln was pretty great; I could almost reread it just for him. (See? Even my shortest is still 422 characters.)

The act of settling

Sometimes I find words I once wrote that never made it off the drafting page, but still strike a nerve, and still need to be said. This is one of those cases.

 

The 3rd of May, 2013 |||
just under three weeks before graduation

“I’m ready to settle down, settle in, just settle for a while.

No, I’m not talking about relationships. We won’t freak anyone out — and by anyone, I mean me.

I’m talking about living quarters, about friends, about interior decorating, about jobs, about neighbors, about ministry, about church.

I’m talking about the frustrating reality of college life — the reality marked and pocked by transition after transition after packing up and moving after transition.

I’m tired of moving every five months. Of packing up everything I have every May to switch homes, only to pack everything back up and come back three months later. I’m tired of having to unpack everything, setting up home once again, every year. Packing and moving, packing and flying, unpacking again and again, ad nauseum.

I’m ready to be in the same place for longer than a semester. Yes, I’ve been in Chicago for four years – but not really. Every five months I head back to Florida, either for a month or three. Just when I settle in there, get used to living at home again, get used to being surrounded by family, used to having a (more or less) stocked kitchen at my disposal, I have to leave. Come back to school. Reorient mind and self and habits to an entirely different culture and situation.

I’ve very tired of it.”

Now |||
just under a year after graduating

Well, I did it. I stayed in the same place, sans a few days in October and March and a week at Christmas, since June 29, when I moved into my first apartment.

That was ten months ago. Has it been enough?

I might be moving again, in July. This little apartment has been a really nice first step. A little bit janky (read: a lot) but nice. I liked it. My roommate and I occasionally commend it for being a good little apartment (and not falling apart, at least not completely, you know?)

But it’s an hour commute to work, and it feels like time to move on again — even if it’s just to a different neighborhood.

Except, I hate that it’s time to move on. Come on: moving? I hate moving. Or at least, I’ve hated moving before, and that was without furniture.

But I probably will. We’ll figure it out, and I’ll be calling in every friend and favor in the Cook county area (which means I should really start earning favors. Who wants to come over for dinner tonight?).

But I haven’t completely forgotten how I felt a year ago. How desperately I longed to forego boxes and bins entirely for a while. How bad of a homebody I was for months after finally moving in, how much I preferred being in my own space to doing just about anything else, for awhile.

With the knowledge of how strongly I felt about it then, it surprises me that it changed.

But it has, and I’ve even felt myself beginning the moving process, just a little bit: not bothering to have small things fixed, deciding not to hang new curtain rods or a gallery wall just now, waiting to buy a new table till I see where I’ll be.

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But there’s still a piece of that longing from May 3. And it’s mostly on account of how I’ve mentally started that moving process. It irks me that I won’t put up curtain rods, and leaves me unsettled that I can’t really add too much too my decorating without knowing what sort of space I’ll be in next. To be fair, it’s better on my bank account (especially waiting on the table), but the in-betweenness brings up those year-old feelings of unsettledness.

I’m not sure what settled will be for me. I’m not certain what I’ll want it to look like down the road. Whether, after a little more time has passed, I’ll love moving around, or if I’ll continue to tire of it and want to be in one place for twenty years. I don’t know how this will play out with the temptation of traveling, and without even really knowing what I want my career to look like ten years hence, I don’t know how that will play in either.

So here’s the usual lesson: I’m here right now, so I should… make the most of it? But really, I’m not going to put up curtain rods, and I don’t completely hate having an excuse to not have my perfect interior design yet. So I’m not sure what making the most of it should actually be.

Unsettled probably isn’t a bad thing. It’s not quite akin to discontent, and let’s be honest: unsettled is probably the norm for 23-year olds of my generation. We’ll figure it out, I’ll figure it out,  just not today.

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And in the meantime, I was serious: who wants to help me move come over for dinner?