Category Archives: post college life

Grown-up things

This week I got my tax return. Exciting, right? It is if you’re a 24-year-old with her first full-time job. I got a REAL tax return. I’m talking more than $20 here people! Throughout college my tax returns were only good for a round at the bar,  and a very cheap round. Not anymore. Holding my hefty tax return was one of those tiny wonderful adult moments. 99 percent of the time I’m juggling work, freelancing, and bills, all while trying to hold on my social life. But sometimes being an adult can be kind of wonderful. Which of course got me thinking about some other little “adult” blessings.

1. 10pm happy hours with my coworkers. Working 1-10pm can be a little rough, especially when your friends are out you know, having fun.  Luckily I’ve got some stellar co-workers who have no problem moving happy hour from 5pm to 10pm.

2. Late night grocery shopping. Most people hate this chore, but I kind of love it. Especially when it’s 10:30pm and I’m the only one at Giant Eagle. Not only do I have the store to myself, but I can shop all for myself. Which means my dad can’t judge me for buying four boxes of cereal and a $12 Wilton pastry sifter.

3. Paid vacation > Gap discount. No matter how stressful work gets, my job is a million times better than Cracker Barrel, Target, Gap, Panera and my stint with Kent State’s Dining Services combined.

4. It’s my money and I’ll spend it if I want to. If I want to use my big girl tax return to buy new clothes and get a new tattoo, I can. Because it’s mine.

5. I’m not alone. Even when I feel like I’m totally fucking up this whole process of growing up, it’s nice to know my friends are right there with me. 

Unemployed no more

I got a job.

I didn’t know how to start this post, so I told myself, “Hey, why not just get to the point straight away for once?”

After one year and three months, 209 job applications, two part-time jobs and several embarrassing episodes of tears and ice cream, I am finally employed.

In two weeks, I’ll start at PR Newswire in Cleveland as an assistant editor. It’s not a job I had ever even considered, but after hearing about it and saying what the hell, I applied. The amazing people who work there and the fast-paced atmosphere cinched it for me. I read a lot about the company and it’s nice to know I’ll be working for an innovative company that isn’t scared of social media or the web. (A nice change from the doomsday predictors found in most newsrooms.)

I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am to be going back to Cleveland. I love the city and fortunately, many of the people I love are also in the area. I’m leaving home, but not really.

I suppose this is the part where I give some hopeful message to job seekers. But that would just seem incredibly lame and pompous. The truth is, I would rather pull my toenails off then relive this last year. It sucked. There were few hopeful moments. Mostly, I was angry, discouraged and depressed by the bleak outlook for journalism. But…(because there’s always a but) this past year taught me more about life than four years of college.

Life is messy. It will chew you up and won’t even bother to spit you out. But sometimes it’s kind of great. Sometimes things work out and you’re able to forget about the crappy times because in the end, the good always outweighs the bad. When I got the job offer, everything else just fell away. All of my hard work was for something. I felt validated. That moment was, well it was amazing, and the feeling still hasn’t worn off.

Naturally, I started packing the minute I got home. As you can see, I started with the essentials.

In two weeks, I'll FINALLY be able to unpack all my stuff that's been stored away for 15 months.

This messy thing called life

I’m starting to realize that whenever I blog about some new change I plan to make in my life, I always end up doing the opposite. If I was smart, I’d stop announcing it to the entire online community, but I’m not one to keep things to myself. Let’s hope I never run for office. I’d hate for my opponent to label me a flip-flop after coming across my blog. But blogs, like your twenties are meant for making changes.

About a month ago I blogged about the end of my relationship with journalism. After a year of job applications and dead ends, it began to feel like my journalism career was coming to a dead end before it even got out of the driveway. I was burnt out and ready to give up and find something else if for no other reason than to throw myself into something new.

For a couple of weeks, I was content with my decision. But then that nagging voice started chiming in, the one that felt the need to constantly repeat the same line: “You’re meant to be a journalist.” Voices can be a pain, especially when you kind of wonder if maybe they’re right.

Around this time, I plopped down in a chair across from my dad and wailed, “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life!” I must say, it felt quite nice to actually say that out loud. Sure I’ve written it on here, but admitting it out loud felt like I knocked the air out of me, but in a good way. My dad, never one to say more than is needed, said to me, without even looking up from his grocery list, “You just gotta keep plugging away kiddo.” Sometimes voices aren’t annoying. Sometimes they’re utterly true.

So that’s what I’m doing. Brittany is plugging away. No more grand announcements about giving up on journalism or moving to New York for an unpaid internship or running away to New Jersey to convince Caroline Manzo‘s adorable son, Albie to marry me. (Although if you’re reading this Albie, tweet me!)

The title of my last post was, “Now is the time for realists.” Although the post is in a sense null and void now, the title still rings true. Now is the time for me to admit that I’m totally confused and a bit lost and utterly terrified of what the future holds. And that’s the most real thing I can say.

So right now I’ve picked up my job search again. I’ve already applied for 10 this week. I’m still studying for the GRE which I’m scheduled to take in July. I’m dreading it, but the results are good for five years so grad school is still an option. And I’m still continuing my glamorous job at Panera with my amazing coworkers.

My life is stressful and messy and confusing and mind-numbing boring at times. But for now, that’s life. All I can do is plug away.

Now is the time for realists

172 job applications. 11 months and 21 days.

This is the blog post I’ve been dreading. As long as I kept searching for jobs and peddling my earnest stories, I could put this post off. As long as I kept trying I wouldn’t have to admit defeat.

But almost a year later I’ve finally decided to stop. No more late nights spent on Mediabistro, Ed2010 and JournalismJobs. No more editing and then re-editing my cover letter and resume. No more emails that go unanswered. No more rejections. I’ve spent the past seven years working toward becoming a journalist. I got pretty close too, what with the internships and all the writing I did in college. But all that was just a warm-up for what came next. Unfortunately for me nothing ever came next.

When I started this job search a year ago, I thought it would be fun to keep track. After a few months it wasn't much fun.

A couple of months ago I decided to give myself a deadline. I thrive on deadlines. It’s one of the reasons I like journalism. May 15, 2011: a year after a graduation. (What can I say, I’m a sucker for poetic moments.) However, a couple of weeks ago I realized something: whether I make it to May 15 or May 6, nothing is going to change. I never expected the journalism forces to collide come the 15th and send me a job offer from above. So I cut my deadline a bit early. After 172 job applications, you tend to feel a bit disheartened and are ready for the whole terrible process to finish. Why drag this out 11 more days?

Right now I have a vague idea of what’s next. I’m leaning toward grad school, but I don’t want to say where or for what because then it will never happen. I thought I’d feel sad or disappointed, but in reality I’ve had a year to feel like shit. I’ve had a year to question my writing, my talent, everything. I thought I’d worry what people would think when I told them I was giving up on journalism. But then I realized something: No one else matters. I can keep applying for jobs and hoping that one day my life will start, or I can start living my life.

I want out of my parents’ house and out of part-time jobs that require me to wear a uniform. I want to unpack the dozens of boxes that are starting to sag under the weight of other boxes. I want to a dog and my own mailing address and bills to pay. I want to become an adult.

I’ll always be a writer. I’ll never lose that. But it would be absurd to think writing is all I’m capable of doing. I’m too much of a realist for that. Journalism and I had a good run, but if this year taught me anything, sometimes things–for reasons unknown–just don’t work out. It sucks and it hurts and at times I’ve cried until snot ran down my face and my pillow was soaked. And then I got up and pulled myself together. That’s all any of us can do.

In my memoir this chapter will be called: Brittany’s dreams fall apart. The next chapter will be called: What happens when Brittany finds a new dream.

Love in unusual places

I’ve never been a fan of part-time work. The mere mention of applying for a part time job triggered a deep loathing. The same loathing I feel for Republicans and the Browns. Cracker Barrel, Target, Gap — none of my past jobs made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Yet as mind numbing and physically draining (folding denim is tough work) as all those jobs were, I accepted them. I didn’t plan on doing any menial part time work once I graduated college.

But then I graduated college and applied for jobs. And when the first 50 weren’t enough, I applied for 50 more. And then another 50. Around July of last year, I realized I was going to have to find part time work. So I got a job at Gap. After seven months of shitty hours, bitchy managers and screaming babies, I decided I didn’t have to take this crap. (I had this grand revelation after spending an entire shift changing light bulbs.) So I sought out something a bit grander, a bit more brag-worthy. When I couldn’t find anything, I got a job at Panera.

Me, the girl who still shudders when I think about my first job as a waitress at Cracker Barrel, is working in food service. For the past month, I’ve made espresso drinks, cleaned a million dishes, made sandwiches and salads and been an all around Panera B.A.M.F. I haven’t told many people I work there. It was one thing to run into my old A.P. English teacher and tell her I was working at the Gap, but telling the same woman I work at a place that requires an apron and latex gloves? I wasn’t ready for that.

Another thing I wasn’t ready for was to actually enjoy my job. One day before I went into work, I realized the sinking feeling in my stomach that usually accompanies all part-time work wasn’t there. That same day I also realized the aversion I usually felt to past coworkers wasn’t there. I had won the elusive part-time job Double Jeopardy: I liked my job and I liked my coworkers.

My coworkers gossip as much as they smoke. They’re loud and brash, and they eat half their weight in free food. Caleb once told me he couldn’t cover my shift because he had to go to the studio to “lay down some tracks.” He then added without a hint of sarcasm, “I’m a rapper.” Dave can’t pass the sandwich line without grabbing a piece of bread, an apple or a whole salad. Kelsey is a high school senior, who one day just stopped going to school. Lamar takes 15 minutes to make a sandwich, and Dan once brought a spit cup to a work meeting.

And yet…

They made me feel welcome when I was the new girl who broke dishes and accidentally got grounds in the coffee. They make me laugh. They bus tables and help me make sandwiches and remind me how much milk to use in a cappuccino. They do all this without being asked. They work long hours and go to school. They close the restaurant one day and get up an open it the next. They work overtime so they earn enough to take care of their families. They make sure Ralph, an older gentleman who comes in every day, never has to wait more than a minute before his food is ready. They call customers sir and ma’ am.

One day when I’m a writer or an editor or whatever, Panera will just some job I had when I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life. In the long run I won’t be any better off because I know how to make a chicken Thai salad. But it’s still nice to enjoy getting up for work, however temporary that work may be.

Our endless numbered days

“What are your plans for the day?”

My best friend Samantha asks me this whenever we talk. Considering we live 20 minutes apart and our other two high school best friends are hours away, this is quite often. At the beginning of the summer when I was still trying to adjust to living at home again, I would laugh when she asked this. What did she think I was doing all day? I was watching the “Gilmore Girls” and stalking old friends on Facebook.

At first I liked my endless summer vacation. I assumed a job would come along eventually, but as I’ve blogged before, the job search has been less than fulfilling. Now that Sam and I are gainfully unemployed  together and still in our hometown, her question isn’t so silly. It’s become a challenge to us. If we fill our days with enough stuff, we won’t have to concentrate on those nagging thoughts: When will we get a job? When will we leave Springfield? If you think about those questions enough, you’ll want to stay in bed and never get out. So we stay busy.

We go on 10 mile bike rides, pedaling fast until our legs burn. We make plans to bike once a week. Maybe one day we’ll bike all the way to the Ohio River. We work; Sam at Five Guy’s and me at Gap. We complain when we don’t get at least 20 hours and we’re always the first to volunteer to cover a shift.

We’ve rediscovered the library. For me that means books. I read all of Anna Quindlen’s previous novels. I “read some Hemmingway” just like John Kupetz urged me to do when I was at journalism camp five years ago. I learned about “going to the mattresses” after finishing “The Godfather.” (Yes, it’s a book too.) I discovered what Carrie Bradshaw was like before Mr. Big and NYC in “The Carrie Diaries.” I learned everything I could about the Kennedy’s, Zelda Fitzgerald and Columbine. For Samantha, the library means movies. Lots of movies. She didn’t like “Doubt.” She thought Gwyneth Paltrow was great in “Emma.” She thinks “How I Met Your Mother” is the funniest show on TV, and she’s still talking about last season’s finale of “Grey’s Anatomy.” She reads too but mostly books about good business and magazines like Fortune and Money.

We go to matinée movies. We walk around the mall and through Yellow Springs just to walk. We hang out on her couch or in my bedroom, talking about people we used to go to high school with.  We splurge on eating out. We watch movies and drink St. Pauli’s girl and eat pizza. We have sleepovers and wonder if we’ll ever get out of this place. We learn new things about each other even after 11 years of friendship.

We keep each other sane in this endless summer that isn’t so nice anymore. We remind each other that one day our time won’t be filled with bike rides, pizza and sleepovers. We can’t wait for those days. But until then, we’ll keep pedaling and going to the library and seeing early movies. And when Sam asks me, “What are your plans for the day?” I’ll always have an answer.

Bitter and jealous, party of one

I’m jealous of all my friends.

Everyone at one point in his or her life is jealous of a friend. It could be over a test grade, a new job, a new relationship, better shoes, whatever.  I can accept that at certain times I may be jealous of a friend. I just never expected to be jealous of all of them at once.

Everyone wants the perfect job, the perfect partner and the perfect place to live. We may not have all of them right now, but we hope that one day we will have all Three, the final sign that we’ve “made it.”

As a single 20 something living with my parents and working at the Gap, I obviously have none of the elusive Three. It wouldn’t be so hard to deal with if my friends were in the same boat. But all of them have at least one of the Three. Sarah, Jon and Sam have great boyfriends, the kind of guys you want to pick out china patterns and have babies with. Adam, Jon and Angie have ACTUAL jobs, ones with healthcare, 401(k)s and paid vacations. When it comes to the last of the Three–living accommodations–the only one of us who is really secure in that is Jon. Anyone noticing that he’s getting off quite well? Him with his adorable puppy, perfect boyfriend, great job and wonderful old house. But even Sam, Angie and Chelsea have managed to get out of their parents’ homes.

So let’s tally the scores shall we? Jon: 3 (lucky bastard) Angie: 2 Adam: 1 (but since that 1 is the perfect job, it’s a high 1) Sarah: 1 (Did I mention her boyfriend bought her two Coach purses?) Samantha: 1 (As soon as she moves to Cleveland to be closer to her bf, you can bet he’ll put a ring on it before she’s unpacked) Chelsea: 1 (All of us know Chelsea is destined for great things. She’ll be living in France while I’m still at the Gap.)

If I sound incredibly bitter, I apologize. My friends know I love them and want nothing but the best for all of them. But … when will it be my turn? Right now I would settle for one of the three. I know I should be grateful. I graduated college. I have no debt to my name. I managed to find a part-time job at  one of my favorite stores, and I’m blessed with two amazingly patient and understanding parents who haven’t kicked me out. But it’s not enough. I want more. Then again, who doesn’t? Which leaves me to wonder, when I do acquire The Big Three, will it be enough?

Are any of us ever happy with what we have?