Kids These Days

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I grew up in the 90’s.

Born towards the end of the 80’s, the first President I remember is George H.W. Bush. I rode my bike around my neighborhood, with a portable radio¬†branded with oil company my dad, at the time, worked for. It had a nylon wrist-strap, which I used to hang the radio from the pink handlebars on my hand-me-down bike. I listened to the radio, while biking around the suburbs. I remember thinking nothing would ever be better.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Because talk about peaking early.

One of the many songs that was popular was “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey from her Music Box album. I would easily go to bat and say that is still one of my favorites. Not even sorry about it everyone.

It’s probably not surprising that I am very sentimental. I mean, look at this blog I’m writing, for Pete’s sake. I’m sentimental and was (am?) obsessed with the commercial love I heard in pop songs.

Commercial love is sweet, but it’s not real. It’s like that line from Sleepless in Seattle: “You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.” That basically frames my entire music collection. Who wouldn’t want to be in love in a pop song?! . . . Well, there are some questionable pop songs. But overall, you get the picture.

Not even 10, much less into my teen years, I was in love with being in love in a pop song.

I wanted to hustle through my childhood. The youngest of three kids, I spent most of my childhood wishing I was older and cool enough to be play with my siblings.

Mariah Carey fit the bill perfectly for my desire of being a much older, cooler, woman who was totally in love. What was it like to be an adult? Obviously, I knew everything about it, because Mariah told me what it was like.

Duh.

I still struggle with speeding through life. The excitement for what comes next will always appeal to me. Now, I’m actively trying to enjoy moments. . . Being quiet in the moment, enjoying the company of friends, taking in new views – just savoring the everyday.

But, to be clear: savoring the everyday does include overly sentimental listenings to Mariah Carey and failing hilariously to hit her top notes.

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Party Hardy Har Har

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My college boyfriend broke up with me. Twice. While I might still be a little resentful at myself for the blindsided reality of being dumped twice by the same guy, it did lead to a more interesting period in my life.

I’m a list maker. I make pro/con lists. I make to-do lists. I make grocery lists. I have spontaneity, but I enjoy being organized. An administrative achiever to my core, I like plans.

Then my senior year of college lead to the disintegration of said plans. One of the things that broke down the plans was the exit of said boyfriend. I grew up really believing that whomever (whoever? Does anyone actually know this grammar rule? English is so complicated, y’all) I was dating in college was who I would married. This is a pretty common ideal for those of us that grew up in the Southern, conservative states. When that didn’t happen, I really did wonder what I was going to do next. How my plans to attend grad school at Vanderbilt, become a counselor, get married. . . How this one guy saying “No thanks, boo” to me caused me to really examine if any of that was what I wanted.

My plans of becoming a counselor for kids, going to grad school, getting married after college were all made when I was 17. I am extremely driven, and I had stuck to the plans for a long time.

Ultimately, I scorched it all. I tossed the plans out and forgot about it all. All the things I thought were good choices or positive were so obviously dumb, because it only caused pain.

My frontal lobe wasn’t developed yet. Cut 21-year-old Liz a break.

The plans would take a different form later, but at the time I had no plans. I was terrified and exhilarated. Which led to going out on a level I hadn’t done before. Which means “That’s Not My Name” – The Ting Tings was everywhere. It seemed that everywhere I went out to was playing this song. I’m probably exaggerating, but I remember one night hearing it in every place I went.

Or maybe it was playing on my iPod the whole night and I never realized it. All likely scenarios.

In my ongoing search to figure out who I was or what I liked, I dated a guy from my hometown. It was a complicated, on/off relationship. Not complicated because I was terrible and he was stubborn. But complicated because we were both in transition – not sure of what was coming next or what the time table of life would bring. It was incredible how aimless I felt, that I was willing to try anything to see if I actually liked it.

So I did what any girl with no plans or future does: I drank, danced and straight up swung from the chandelier.

Well. Not really. Because that seems very dangerous and who knows what the weight limit for those things really is.

But you get the idea: I went out almost every weekend, and come holidays I went out every night. I didn’t pay a dime for a drink or cover. I was ten feet tall, and bulletproof. With the intense vulnerability and pain I had felt after being told “I don’t love you” by a guy I had loved, I chased that bulletproof feeling everywhere. I craved having my confidence back.

I can’t reiterate it enough though: I felt so unsure of everything I had chosen. Was this the life I wanted? What did life look like after college without plans? It felt like everyone else had these life journeys and events planned. . . And I had tossed them all out because it just wasn’t right for me anymore.

What I didn’t realize was everyone was unsure. With the closing of a big chapter of life, no one leaves without doubt. We chain ourselves to a destiny, without realizing we cut the chains whenever we want.

For me, I pulled out the bolt cutters after tequila, a night of dancing and pandering around like a newborn giraffe in heels. While it was fun, I knew my achieving type-A list maker was not cut out for it. It was enjoyable to entertain the idea of someone and that this could be a high I chased for the next few years.

But ultimately, it’s just not who I am. I make goals and lists because I like them. I like achieving.

Anytime I hear this song, I think of that 21 year old girl. That story in my life is a reminder that everyone isn’t sure. That the destiny I’m not sure about, it changes. You change it. You get to decide if you want to travel. You get to decide if you want to pursue another degree. You decide if you get to move.

You.

So that’s what I did. I moved away. I traveled. I got a master’s. And I owe it all to The Ting Tings.

Well, The Ting Tings and tequila.

Transitory Transit

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I have a sentimental relationship with public transit.

What I mean is, that I romanticized a group of strangers sharing a piece of space, for a brief time, to get to a next destination. What I really think that means is that I have never lived in a city where it is required of me to actually use public transportation.

Whatever. If that makes me a tourist I don’t care. I like it.

At the beginning of 2016, I went to Washington D.C. for a work trip. Initially, I just volunteered as tribute because I like D.C. In a previous iteration of life, I probably could’ve made a go of living there. I like history. I like monuments to dead people. When I retire, you will probably find me as a docent at your local museum that highlights the history of the usage of limestones for building facades or telling people “And on this spot on this day in history. . .”

Obviously, I was willing to go to D.C. if it meant visiting monuments to relics, and riding public transit.

In context, it was a very interesting time to be in our nation’s capitol (or is it capital? I can never remember the rules). Supreme Court Justice Scalia had just died and there was an rare mood in D.C.

I warned you. I like history.

I ended up taking the train to my work conference everyday.¬†On the train ride, I felt very metropolitan with earbuds in, messenger bag strapped and coffee in hand. An album I was really digging at the time was Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear. On what felt like my nth listening to the album, I somehow ended up becoming obsessed with “True Affection.

I have no idea how some songs just strike you. There’s something that happens in the context of your emotional or geographical state that it’s as though a lightbulb flashes.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t super satisfied with my job at the time. I was part of a national service/federal grant. And we did the same thing every year. There was part of me that wanted more, some sort of difference. As an achiever, I was striving. Bumping up against my limitations within my current career trajectory, wondering what I could do differently.

The conference I was attending made me wrestle with the question: “Is this what I want to be the expert in?” The content of the conference was great, and there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with my job. But I began to wonder if this was something I could do for another year; was this something I wanted to continue to pursue?

Those train rides back and forth, I would listen to this song on repeat. I was obsessed. A song manifesting itself into what was next. The same back beats replaying my obsession with change. I obsess with change, and the abhor it once it comes.

It was a weird moment, for me. Trying to figure out your need for something new within the facet of career that had mostly been good. I hadn’t been in that position very long, but I was loyal to the job. I believed in what I was doing.

But my sense of loyalty felt betrayed. My completely natural desire of wanting to do something different, was convoluted by my own introspection. Because I had given so much to this part of my career, it was my guilt. I felt like even the thought was betraying something that had been good to me.

Why should I dare leave something that I had worked so hard for? How could I leave when it had given so much? What am I thinking throwing away all that work?

These questions rolled in my brain. A spinning metal cage of uncertainty, my thoughts pinging off the sides.

All of these things are trademark “Liz” moves. I question everything. I parse and fine tooth comb all decisions, sometimes to my detriment. Occasionally, it works out in my favor. Mostly, it makes life difficult.

Fortunately, I didn’t self sabotage as I tend to enjoy doing. I had an opportunity fall in my lap, but that’s a story for another time.

Anytime I hear “True Affection”, I think of all the space I shared with strangers on the train that week. How I doubt, and they all probably have some doubts too. It makes me wish I didn’t hesitate so much. How different would my life be if I ran head-long more often than not?

I wonder how we all get anything done when we’re all out trying to stab our desires to death. At least we have Father John Misty to soothe us as we contemplate how to prevent our own happiness.

Silver lining!